This guest post is by Trevor Ginn of Hello Baby.
In 1941 he wrote the essay called Politics and the English Language in which he criticised the “ugly and inaccurate” contemporary use of English and offered six elementary rules for good writing. The medium may have changed but these rules are as relevant to the blogosphere as they were in Orwell’s day.
If you want to be understood and read widely, using effective language should be your top priority. The web is full of mediocre blogs, so make sure yours stands out. Good writing matters and by following these rules you can rise above the competition and clearly communicate your ideas.
Rule 1: Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print
Familiar phrases such as “on the same page” or “think outside the box” come quickly to mind when writing. However, using these hackneyed phrases will lead to boring blog posts and groans from your readers. Take time to craft postings which are interesting, inventive and original. Never resort to clichés.
Rule 2: Never use a long word where a short one will do
Using long words may make you feel clever, but they do nothing for the readability of your posts. Your blog should be easy to read and aimed at a broad audience. After all, nobody likes a show off.
Rule 3: If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out
Great blog posts never waffle but are short and punchy. Your posts are competing with a myriad of other distractions both online and offline and so you need to get your point across with brevity and emphasis. Less is almost always more.
Rule 4: Never use the passive where you can use the active
When you blog, you should use short, impactful sentences make your points. To this end active phrases are shorter and more direct. For example, “the man wrote the blog” is punchier than “the blog was written by the man.”
Rule 5: Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent
Aim to use plain, jargon-free English to appeal to the largest possible audience. You should always aim to write for the average reader, although admittedly for technical subjects this may be difficult. Do not drone on with excessive explanation but try to help people understand what you are talking about.
Rule 6: Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous
Above all, be sure to use your common sense! These rules are easy remember but hard to apply and the key is to care about making your blog easy to read, accessible, pithy and cliché free.