As a writer, I shouldn't even admit that until today I'd never read George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language," only the famous excerpt where he mangles a passage from the Bible by turning it into modern jargon. Scott Rosenberg of Salon suggests reading the essay once a year, much as I recommend doing with Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. Orwell proclaims:
A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:
- What am I trying to say?
- What words will express it?
- What image or idiom will make it clearer?
- Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
And he will probably ask himself two more:
- Could I put it more shortly?
- Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?
The essay is approaching age 60 -- Orwell wrote it in 1946 -- yet it is as fresh as ever, and especially relevant in our time of war-that-isn't-war and other political obfuscations. Read it yourself.