George Orwell: Clarity and Obfuscation


George Orwell was a strong advocate of clarity in language. To demonstrate how simple ideas can be swallowed up in a sea of verbiage, he constructed the following sentence:

Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels 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 inevitably be taken into account.

Orwell had actually rewritten the following passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes (King James Version):

“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 favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” Ecclesiastes 9:11

The original, of course, was in Hebrew. You can see alternative translations here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s