Monday, November 25, 2013

George Orwell's Rules of Writing

John W. Howell is back to tell us about the rules of writing as established by George Orwell.

Orwell is as Orwell Does by John W. Howell

Eric Arthur Blair who wrote under the pen name George Orwell (1903 – 1950) is best known for two of his six novels of fiction ; Animal Farm and Nineteen eighty- four. These books placed him in a class by himself. He was an outspoken critic of the machinations of government and the effect of policy on the ordinary citizen. He once was very much in favor of Soviet socialism until he witnessed the abuses of the Stalin era. Although he was a profound voice in the political dialog of his day, as a writer, I am more enamored with some rules for writers that George established:

  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

George was also influential in the establishment of vernacular that we use today.  When we think of draconian government methods we describe the methods as Orwellian.  Big Brother is the government and the term Cold War was first used by George.  It is too bad that he died at the age 46 since he would have enjoyed writing about the Thought Police and Newspeak (terms he created) well into his older years.  The following is his fictional biography: 1934 – Burmese Days, 1935 – A Clergyman's Daughter, 1936 – Keep the Aspidistra Flying, 1939 – Coming Up for Air, 1945 – Animal Farm, 1949 – Nineteen Eighty-Four
What do you think of these rules of writing?
John writes fictional short stories and novels as well as a blog at He is currently under contract with Martin Sisters Publishing for his fiction thriller My GRL being prepared for release.

John lives on a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of south Texas with his wife and spoiled rescue pets. He can be reached at his e-mail, Facebook or Twitter at @HowellWave


  1. Very interesting post. Thank you, John!

  2. This is a useful and provocative entry-- or so I found it. Giving lifestyle and writing life details about a less-examined writer such as Orwell can bring a fresh insight into one's own writing challenges.