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?
Cricket, apart from boxing, is probably the only sport that has consistently evoked great writing. (Maybe even fishing to some extent.) But you wouldn’t notice if you read Indian cricket “writers”, barring honourable exceptions like, say, Prem Panicker.
So short is the supply that genuine cricket aficionados who do not believe the cricket world begins and ends with SRT are forced to turn to the British and Australian papers and blogs.
Sample Simon Hughes of The Daily Telegraph, London.
In his blog on the dramatic England collapse in the second Test of the Ashes last week, Hughes sneaks in a smart one on the unbelievable Mike Hussey.
“Hussey is phenomenal—the only batsman in the world with no known weakness. I’m to blame. I coached him at Waneroo when he was 11 and he was an ordinary right hander. My coaching was so bad he changed to left handed and now averages over 80 in Test cricket.”
Also see: Who killed good cricket writing?
Every young journalist and wannabe journalist goes through this existential question: How does one get on the phone and ask total strangers completely embarrassing questions like, “When, Sir, did you stop beating your wife”?
On the wonderful salon e-zine, Cary Tennis offers some advice.