Politics and the English Language, Rule 2


This post is part of a series dedicated to George Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language.

Rule 2: “Never use a long word where a short one will do.”

There is an important nuance to this rule: Orwell urges for truth through clarity, but not at the expense of the message. He is not suggesting avoiding long words, but rather stressing that when two words are equivalent, the shorter should be used.

A reader should be forced to decrypt a long word when that word enriches the work, but not when it interrupts the flow like a jackknifed tractor trailer. This is what the art of writing is about; mastery of a vocabulary and its tactful application.

Above all, be as precise as you can in your writing. For example, if a character in your story stumbles upon their lover in bed with somebody else, using “upset” over “speechless” or “enraged” would be inaccurate.

(Which is to say, wrong.)

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  1. #1 by WP Rankmaster - May 26th, 2013 at 22:03

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