Before you write anything, ask yourself these questions

Says George Orwell:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  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 he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly
  2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

More here.

See also: George Orwell at Encyclopedia Britannica.


Starbucks as unit of measure

via Fors Clavigera.

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The present political chaos is connected with the decay of language

One ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself.

Political language — and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists — is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change ones own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin, where it belongs.

via George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946.

Management abuses of language increase “exponentially”


The word “exponential” has taken a lot of abuse from managers who use it to describe any growth that is more than sluggish. Whereas in maths an exponential graph goes swiftly from almost flat to almost vertical, this pattern is seldom traced by any market I’ve ever come across.

But now the term seems to have slipped free of its mathematical moorings altogether: living “exponentially” involves having “quality time with yourself” and “living in your own truth”.

Speaking from the vantage point of my own truth, I find some things are truer than others. Truest of all are mathematical truths, and it is therefore upsetting to see them being pilfered shamelessly by innumerate managers eager to lend an aura of fact to what is usually a glob of guff.


A language with its sleeves rolled up and its necktie loosened. (…) [I]t is “the language that says ‘no’. No to piety, to religion, to ideology and all its permutations, to honour, nobility, patriotism and their kindred infantilisms (…)”.

It is all those words we wouldn’t utter in a job interview or in front of a maiden aunt. And it is an endless source of pleasure, which explains why dictionaries of slang are so appealing.

via TLS.

The perils of not proofreading after spellcheck

See also: Who cheques the chequer?

Who cheques the chequer?

Eye halve a spelling chequer,

It came with my Pea Sea.

It plane lee marks four my revue

Miss steaks I can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,

Your shore real glad two no.

Its vary polished in it’s weigh.

My chequer tolled me sew. (OUPblog)