Orwell Again


George Orwell’s Rules of Good Writing

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

Remember the difference between passive voice and active voice (rule 4). In active voice, the doer of the action is the subject: John ate the pizza. In the passive voice version of this sentence, the pizza becomes the subject, and John, if he’s mentioned at all, ends up as the object of the preposition by: The pizza was eaten by John. Notice that we don’t have to mention John: The pizza was eaten. Sometimes the doer of the action is known or unimportant, and it makes sense to use passive voice.  Barack Obama was elected President. We all know who elected him. But usually, the active voice is better because it is less wordy and more direct.

Try applying some of Orwell’s rules in the following exercise compare your revisions with mine.

  1. A great enhancement of the learning potential of students can be realized by goal-oriented education professionals.
  2. At the end of the day, production output will be maximized by a proactive managerial approach to effective interfacing with staff.
  3. We need a staffing component that can think outside the box and cut to the chase in the face of deadline situations.
  4. In the event that you have any questions, don’t hesitate to bring them forward.
  5. Adequate hydration is an important component of an exercise regimen.

My revisions:

  1. Good teachers can improve students’ learning. (Rules 2, 3, and 4)
  2. Timely communication by managers will increase production. (Rules 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)
  3. Our staff must be able think creatively and meet deadlines. (Rules 1 and 3)
  4. If you have any questions, please ask. (Rule 3)
  5. You should drink water when exercising. (Rules 2 and 3)

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