George Orwell on the “scrupulous writer”

OrwellIf the world’s most renowned experts were asked to identify the five greatest writers of non-fiction, George Orwell‘s name would be on the list of most — if not all — of them.

In perhaps his finest essay, Politics and the English Language (1946), Orwell suggests that a scrupulous writer asks at least four questions:

1. What am I trying to say?
2. What words will express it best?
3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

These are among my favorite Orwell quotations:

o “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

o “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

o “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

o “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

o “Man is the only creature that consumes without producing. He does not give milk, he does not lay eggs, he is too weak to pull the plough, he cannot run fast enough to catch rabbits. Yet he is lord of all the animals.”

I envy those who have not as yet read any of Orwell’s essays. There countless editions. In my opinion, A Collection of Essays (Mariner Books) seems to offer the best value. Please click here to check it out.

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