Bad English is in Fashion

April 20, 2011

In 1984, George Orwell describes the official language of the future, “Newspeak”. This minimalist language was used by the government to control society. Newspeak’s purpose was to remove all meaning from language.

Orwell loved language and wanted to encourage people to speak and write in ways that conveyed meaning. I just read this excellent article that Orwell wrote called, “Politics and the English Language” (1946). Here is his summary of how to speak and write in a way that conveys your meaning clearly and concisely.

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print [in other words, think about your metaphors and be creative don’t just use ones “off the shelf”].

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do [this may make you sound smart but it will reduce your clarity].

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent [Orwell gives the example of flowers now being referred to by their Greek names “Snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming myosotis”….why not use the English word?] .

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

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