In part one of this blog ( https://www.oxfordhomeschooling.co.uk/blog/6-easy-ways-to-improve-your-writing-part-1/ ), I shared three of George Orwell’s ‘Six Elementary Rules for Writing’ and showed how you can use them to help improve your writing. Here, I’ll introduce the final three so that you can add them to your mental toolkit and keep them in mind whenever you’re writing.
Orwell is talking about ‘active voice’ versus ‘passive voice’ in writing. This can be tricky to understand. In English, with so many ways to arrange words to mean the same thing, it’s difficult to know which is best. Orwell’s advice? Keep it simple. Which choice of phrasing hits the ear best? Which uses the fewest words? Which gets to the point quickest? Here’s an example of using the active voice, versus the passive:
Passive: It was thought by the GCSE student that the use of long words made her sound intelligent.
Active: The GCSE student thought using long words made her sound intelligent.
The passive voice is complicated and vague. Play around with your phrasing. Be simple and succinct, not stuffy.
This relates to the second of Orwell’s rules ( See again, https://www.oxfordhomeschooling.co.uk/blog/6-easy-ways-to-improve-your-writing-part-1/ ). Choose the simplest language you can to express what you want to say. Unusual words are jarring and disrupt a reader’s flow. Complicated phrasing and vocabulary can obscure your ideas and confuse your reader. Orwell thinks that deliberately using niche or jargonistic words is actually a tactic some writers use when they don’t know what they’re on about. Try not to ramble on unless it’s essential for making your point.
This one is confusing and has been interpreted differently over the years. What I think Orwell means is that you need to stand by what you write. It’s better to break one of the other rules than to write something you know is just nonsense or lacks sincerity. Strive to write well and to leave the reader more enlightened than they were before they started reading.
Orwell was 42 when he wrote these six rules and they were the result of years of writing practice. Being able to write well is a skill you can continuously develop, as long as you keep on writing. If you also read regularly, you’ll internalise phrasing, vocabulary and nuances of language that will spill into your writing, without you even realising it. Try to read a broad range of material from classic literature to newspapers and social media posts. The best writers, like Orwell, are also avid readers. Avid readers are lifelong learners. Lifelong learners have more interesting lives. Enjoy your exploration of our incredible English language.
Ruth is an experienced teacher and freelance copywriter. She has taught subjects from Maths and English to Music and Art. She has a degree in Psychology from the University of Sussex, which she topped up with a post graduate qualification to become a teacher. After well over a decade of teaching, Ruth now runs her own copywriting business, specialising in writing for and about children, families and education. Her passions include walking in forests, village bakeries and car boot sales. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org