6 Writing Tips From Author George Orwell

Baleigh Shortreed
5 min readOct 14, 2023

George Orwell, an iconic figure in the realm of English literature, is best known for his captivating literary works and profound insights into the craft of writing. His journey as a writer is a tapestry woven with experiences, beliefs, and a relentless pursuit of truth. Orwell’s remarkable clarity of thought and razor-sharp prose style not only earned him a distinguished place in the annals of literature but also positioned him as a guiding light for aspiring writers across the globe. In this blog, we embark on a journey to explore the life and wisdom of George Orwell, venturing deep into the wellspring of his thoughts. George Orwell, the mastermind behind the dystopian masterpiece “1984,” serves as a testament to his unparalleled literary prowess. Here, we uncover the six famous writing tips he imparted to the literary world, each of which has left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of those who seek to master the art of the written word.

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

Orwell’s first rule encourages writers to steer clear of clichés and overused expressions. He believed that relying on these tired phrases can lead to lazy and unoriginal writing. To create compelling and fresh prose, he urged writers to seek out new and original ways to convey their ideas.

**Using Rule One — Avoiding Clichés:**

*With Rule One*: The sun hung in the sky like a blazing golden coin, casting its warm embrace over the tranquil countryside.

In the example “With Rule One,” the writer has employed a simile that avoids clichés, comparing the sun to a “blazing golden coin” in a fresh and imaginative way.

*Without Rule One*: The sun was as bright as a shiny penny, spreading its warmth all across the peaceful landscape.

In the example “Without Rule One,” the writer has used a clichéd simile by comparing the sun to a “shiny penny,” which is a common and overused comparison, lacking the originality that Rule One encourages.

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

In this tip, Orwell advocates for simplicity in language. He believed that the use of shorter and more familiar words not only enhances clarity but also ensures that the message is accessible to a wider audience. Writers should strive for precision and economy of language rather than opting for verbosity.

**Using Rule Two — Simplicity in Language:**

With Rule Two: Her laughter echoed through the room, a joyful sound that filled the air with delight.

In this instance, the writer has embraced simplicity in language, using clear and concise terms to describe the laughter as a “joyful sound.”

Without Rule Two: Her laughter reverberated resonantly throughout the room, a melodious sonance that permeated the atmosphere with unbridled elation.

In contrast, in the example “Without Rule Two,” the writer has employed longer and complex words, deviating from simplicity. The description becomes unnecessarily elaborate and might hinder clarity for the reader, which Rule Two advises against.

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

Orwell’s advice to trim unnecessary words is a timeless lesson in concise writing. He emphasizes the importance of removing redundant phrases and extraneous details, allowing the core message to shine through. This approach keeps readers engaged and prevents the writing from becoming tedious or bloated.

**Using Rule Three — Cutting Unnecessary Words:**

*With Rule Three*: The old house sat atop the hill, its weathered facade a testament to time’s passage.

Here, the writer has concisely conveyed the idea of an old house with a weathered facade, eliminating superfluous words to maintain a clear and engaging description.

*Without Rule Three*: The aged and timeworn house was positioned at the pinnacle of the hill, displaying the effects of the passage of time on its facade.

In this “Without Rule Three” example, the writer has included additional words and details that don’t significantly enhance the description, making it less concise and potentially less engaging for the reader.

**4. “Never use the passive where you can use the active.”**

Orwell preferred the active voice over the passive for its directness and clarity. He felt that the passive voice could be vague and convoluted, hindering the reader’s understanding. By using the active voice, writers can make their writing more engaging and straightforward.

**Using Rule Four — Preferring the Active Voice:**

*With Rule Four*: She crafted the masterpiece with delicate strokes, her brush dancing across the canvas.

In this case, the active voice is used to emphasize the subject, “she,” as the doer of the action, creating a dynamic and engaging description.

*Without Rule Four*: The masterpiece was crafted with delicate strokes by her, and the canvas was danced upon by her brush.

Here, in the “Without Rule Four” example, the passive voice is used, making the sentence less direct and the subject less prominent. It can lead to a less engaging and less clear description.

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

Orwell valued accessibility in writing, emphasizing the importance of using everyday language instead of foreign phrases or jargon that might alienate readers. This guideline encourages writers to make their work inclusive and comprehensible to a broader audience.

**Using Rule Five — Avoiding Foreign or Jargon Words:**

*With Rule Five*: He explained the scientific concept in everyday language, making it accessible to all.

With this application of Rule Five, the writer has made the scientific concept easily understandable by using everyday language instead of technical jargon.

*Without Rule Five*: He elucidated the scientific principle, expounding on its esoteric intricacies.

In the “Without Rule Five” example, the writer has used specialized and less common terms, potentially alienating readers who may not be familiar with the jargon. This makes the explanation less accessible and clear.

**6. “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.”**

Orwell’s final rule is a reminder that while guidelines can be valuable, they should not be rigidly followed at the expense of clarity or the writer’s voice. If a deviation from one of these rules enhances the writing or serves a specific purpose, it’s acceptable. The primary goal is to communicate effectively and meaningfully.

**Using Rule Six — Prioritizing Clarity Over Rules:**

*With Rule Six*: Her words flowed effortlessly, free from rigid adherence to grammatical conventions, captivating her audience.

In this example, Rule Six encourages the writer to prioritize clarity and effectiveness over strict adherence to rules, allowing for a more engaging and fluid writing style.

*Without Rule Six*: Her words flowed effortlessly, yet adhering strictly to grammatical conventions, capturing the attention of her audience.

In this “Without Rule Six” example, the writer has chosen to prioritize adherence to grammatical rules over the natural flow of language. This can result in a less engaging and more rigid style.

In summary, George Orwell’s enduring writing tips remain a wellspring of inspiration for writers committed to honing their craft. By heeding these principles, writers can aspire to achieve heightened clarity, accessibility, and impact in their work, thereby fulfilling the timeless goal of crafting writing that is not only effective but also deeply engaging.

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Baleigh Shortreed

Writer, Author, & Entreprenuer teaching you to advocate for yourself through written, verbal, and digital means.