Six tips to write better English

10 December 2006

Every so often some reporter or sub asks some wisened old fool, “Sir, how can I write better?”

The answer usually produces an interminably long lecture which not so unusually leaves the recipient wondering why she ever made the mistake of asking.

On the other hand, you can visit one of George Orwell‘s most famous essays: “Politics and the English Language”—an essay written in 1946, but which is valid every time we boot our computers.

The essay is available in its entirety on the world wide web, free of cost.

In it, Orwell makes several compelling points, but if we can just remember six suggestions he makes, we would all feel a little better the next time we pick up our salary cheque.

Orwell says we should ask ourselves four questions.

1) What am I trying to say?

2) What words will express it?

3) What image or idiom will make it clearer?

4) Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And then, two more.

5) Could I put it more shortly?

6) Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

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11 Responses to “Six tips to write better English”

  1. 'sub'missive Says:

    Isn’t good writing instinctive? Can one be trained to write well? Never seen that happen.

  2. KPfan Says:

    Dear ‘sub’missive,

    Good writing is both an art and a science. You can learn more about it by studying KP’s past columns in Deccan Herald. You can also sample some of the best writings in English language in churmuri.

    with regards,
    KP Fan.

  3. Niranjan Says:

    Eric Arthur Blair’s magna carta on written english seem to be undermined and very few have read that oh him on writing. Adding to its unpopularity, universities have included the piece in syllabus for the last semister. but the piece need to be introduced at the PU level, where one tries out on different forms of writing.
    It’s bad to see that everybody believes in the fact that, flair for writing comes through blood or instinct. But i would say NOTHING COMES THROUGH BLOODY LIQUID EXCEPT FOR THE DISEASES!!!. Constant practicse and adequate reading makes a good writer.

  4. KPfan Says:

    Niranjan,

    What do you think about introducing KP’s Deccan Herald columns at SSLC level?

  5. Raju1987 Says:

    I have not read Eric Arthur Blair’s magna carta. But I have read KP in Deccan Herald. I think East or West KP is the best.

  6. mathihalli madan mohan Says:

    I may add two more tips.

    1. Write the copy as a journalist and read it as a reader. you will know where you have erred.

    2. Have you been able to answer all the doubts that the reader may have when he reads the copy

  7. Rajesh Says:

    this is indeed a useful and educating…

  8. Lakshmi Says:

    Dear friends,

    Why does KP not write for Vijay Times:

    a) VT too downmarket — he is a bit ashamed of it

    b) too stressed out — does such an illustrious job

    c) VT does not pay as well as DH

    d) getting exposed — no better than the rest

    e) he can capture the soul of karnataka without writing a word

    answer, win the contest and get booted.

  9. mindlesstree.com Says:

    if beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this sentence is quoted an nauseum, why cant readability lie with the reader. sterile debate ladies and gentleman, sterile debate. that is what u are all excelling in.

    papers, children, is read these days for information and not to improve english, spoken, written, understood, heard, seen or whatever self deluge u are all in.

    standard of english in english dailies is a proof. of course since all of u read only what u write or someone else tells u read, it is a bit too much to expect you to know simple truths.

    but dont stop debating. that save u the pain of learning to write better.

  10. u know hu Says:

    bill & melinda, nrn & sudha are believed to be chipping at a chip that takes care of all forms of writing.

    patience pays. afterall it was a great or minor english poet who said those who stand and wait, shall serve or be served. something like that.

    god bless his soul rather brilliant understanding of future imperfect. he anticipated a time when english dailies will be manned, or manhandled, by people who know no language.


  11. Certain software can actually also help to write better English. It checks on grammatical errors and fixes them to ensure the text is grammatically correct and readable.


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