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?