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OT: Orwell on Language (was RE: A Two Day Workshop for SoftwareArchitect

orwell and language
3/8/2002 8:09:51 PM, John Cowan <jcowan@r...> wrote:

>To paraphrase George Orwell:
>"Break any of these rules rather than code something outright barbarous."

Ah, yes, "Politics and the English Language."  Possibly the best essay I've
ever read on clear writing.  There seem to be a bunch of copies on the web;
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm is one.

A couple  of my favorite bits:

"I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of 
the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse from Ecclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the 
battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men 
of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance 
happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion 
that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be 
commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the 
unpredictable must invariably be taken into account."

"A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at 
least four questions, thus:

1. What am I trying to say?

2. What words will express it?

3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?

4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

1. Could I put it more shortly?

2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?"

"I think the following rules will cover most cases:

1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are 
used to seeing in print.

2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.

3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.

5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you 
can think of an everyday English equivalent.

6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."


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