George Orwell, author of ground-breaking works such as Nineteen Eighty-four and Animal Farm, started his career as an advertising copywriter.
He used this experience to create a few simple writing rules, which we can still use today to ensure our writing is clear, direct and effective. His rules apply whether we're writing a blog post, web page, magazine article, news story, advert or mailout.
1. Try not to use metaphors, similes or other figures of speech
DON'T SAY: Cutting-edge web designers
SAY: Leading designers / the kind of designers that others follow / the industry's most original designers
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do
DON'T SAY: Expeditive, accommodating or monumental
SAY: Quick, helpful or large
3. If it's possible to cut a word out, do so
DON'T SAY: J.K. Rowling, Bloomsbury's most lucrative writer, is now exploring themes of great importance - crime, suicide - in her first novel as Robert Galbraith, “The Cuckoo's Calling”.
SAY: J.K. Rowling explores crime and suicide in her first Robert Galbraith novel “The Cuckoo's Calling”.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active
DON'T SAY: It was understood by the team that Peter's visit was a great success
SAY: The team understood that Peter's visit was a great success
5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
DON'T SAY: In the spirit of carpe diem, the design team blue-skied proposals on the aortic behaviour of cupid's arrow
SAY: The designers took the opportunity to think creatively about love
6. Don't break these rules!