Adrian Shaughnessy's rather splendid-looking collection of essays, Scratching the Surface, has just landed on my desk. Whilst having an initial flick-through, a brief editorial note caught my eye:
Almost banal in their simplicity, George Orwell's six rules of good writing [originally published in his essay Politics and the English Language] opened a door that enabled me to progress as a writer. My writing is always poorer when I forget one or more of them:
— Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
— Never use a long word where a short one will do.
— If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
— Never use the passive where you can use the active.
— Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
— Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
I was unfamiliar with these until now, but I rather like them in their common-sense simplicity – almost like the word version of Dieter Rams' ubiquitous ten principles for good design. Get rid of all the junk and get straight to the point. Only what is necessary. I like that.
See also: Vonnegut's seven tips for writing with style.