Orwell Essay Outline * Introduction A. The English Language 1. People don’t bother to use it correctly a. Just assumed nothing can be done to fix it B. Modern English 1. Full of bad habits a. Especially written English b. Can be avoided if you take the time to learn the right way 2. Habits a. If you get rid of them, you will be able to think more clearly b. Not only professional writers need to work on bad habits C. English Writing 1. Mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence 2. When certain topics are brought up a. Hard fact becomes abstract b. Words are hackneyed c.
Less words are chosen for their actual meaning. ii. Phrases are just tacked together II. Dying Metaphors A. Newly created metaphors assist readers by creating a visual image B. “Dead” metaphors can be used as normal words without losing vividness C. In between these two types of metaphors are metaphors which have lost “word power” 1. Used because people are too lazy to create new ones 2. Used without knowing their actual meaning and are frequently mixed with incompatible ones a. Sign the writer isn’t interested in what he is writing about III. Operators or Verbal False Limbs
A. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns B. Pad each sentence with extra syllables, giving it an appearance of symmetry C. Passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active D. Noun constructions are used instead of gerunds IV. Pretentious diction A. Big are used to dress up a simple statement 1. Give off a sense of scientific impartiality to biased statements 2. Are used to dignify the dirty process of international politics B. Foreign words and expressions are used to give an air of culture and elegance 1.
Except for the useful abbreviations: i. e. , e. g. , and etc. , there is no need for any of the foreign phrases in the English language 2. Scientific, political, & sociological writers think Latin or Greek words are better than Saxon ones C. The normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the right affix 1. Easier to make up words like this, than to think up the correct English word a. The result is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness V. Meaningless Words A. Writing in art criticism and literary criticism, passages generally have no meaning . Words used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless: they not only don’t point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader B. Many political words are abused 1. Democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice each of them have several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another 2. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way a. The writer has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different VI. Modern Writing A.
Doesn’t consist in picking out words for the their meaning or inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer B. Consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else 1. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy C. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself six questions: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? 5. Could I put it more shortly? 6. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? VII. Political Writing
A. In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. B. If not true, it will generally be some kind of rebel 1. Expressing his private opinions and not a “party line” C. Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style 1. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech D. Political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible E.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity 1. If there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms VIII. Language and Thought A. If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought B. Bad usage can spread by tradition & imitation even among people who should know better C. The decadence of our language is curable D. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority E. The worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them F.
It is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations IX. Basic Rules of English A. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing B. Never us a long word where a short one will do C. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out D. Never use the passive where you can use the active E. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent F. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous