In his essay ‘Politics and the English language’, George Orwell had identified the following llingostylistic flaws, which according to author; significantly reduce the logical cohesiveness of the English language when being found in written text:
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- Dying metaphors – the metaphors that are being largely deprived of any semiotic significance, because they had been utilized excessively in the past. According to Orwell, authors who resort to the usage of these metaphors, often do it simply to increase the volume of a written text, even though most of these authors are not even aware of ‘dying metaphors’’ original semantic meaning.
- Verbally false limbs – as Orwell had rightly pointed out, many authors strive to increase the intellectual appeal of their articles by intentionally overcomplicating sentences’ structural integrity – that is, they tend to use extra syllables within a sentence, in order to refrain from the application of simple verbs as something ‘unsophisticated’. Nevertheless, by doing it, these authors reveal themselves as intellectually dishonest individuals, who simply abuse readers’ time.
- Pretentious diction – many politically engaged authors, who nevertheless never suffer from being overburdened with intellect, strive to add sophistication to their written materials by instilling texts with foreign (mostly French and Latin) words. However, by doing it, they often achieve a counter wise effect – readers eventually grow to recognize texts, filled with foreign words and idioms, as containing very little actual sense.
- Meaningless words – there are many words in the English language that do not convey any clearly defined semantic message. For example; nowadays, the word Fascism had effectively ceased to signify a political ideology of Italian national unity, while being reduced to simply serve as the synonym to word ‘bad’. Therefore, the utilization of essentially meaningless words in written text significantly reduces such text’s intellectual value.
According to Orwell, there are six simple rules, the observation of which should help authors to write in an intelligible and logically cohesive manner:
- Refrain from using metaphors, similes and figures of speech that often appear in the works of other authors.
- When in doubt about whether to use a long or short word, always choose in favor of using a short one.
- When a particular written sentence can do away without the inclusion of certain sophistically sounding words, always exclude these words.
- Refrain from applying passive voice for as long as you can express the same thought by using active voice.
- Never utilize foreign terminology or jargon, for as long as there are equivalents available in the English language – by doing it, you will gain respect, on the part of readers.
- It is still better to break mentioned above rules while formulating a phrase than to follow them at the expense of being unable to prevent the constructed phrase from sounding utterly barbaric.
Even though Orwell wrote his article in 1946, the ideas contained in it remain fully valid even today. Moreover, it is namely contemporary ‘experts on tolerance’, who gain academic credits by intentionally making their articles sound pretentiously sophisticated and yet – utterly meaningless, which might find reading ‘Politics and the English language’ especially beneficial. Therefore, we fully subscribe to the points, made by Orwell in his article. It is only when a particular individual learns how to express his thoughts in a clear and comprehensive manner that he or she may qualify for holding a university diploma, in the first place.
Orwell, G. (1946). ‘Politics and the English language’. George Orwell Site. Web.
Smith, D. (1999). ‘When ideas get lost in bad writing’. Rutgers. Web.
Tibbetts, A.M. (1978). ‘What did Orwell think about the English language?’. College Composition and Communication, 29 (2), 162-166.