Thursday, 27 June 2013

Politics and English Language.

I was recently going through a summary of George Orwell's essay POLITICS AND ENGLISH LANGUAGE where he discussed language and writing. He discussed what he felt was wrong with how the language - English is being used. He pointed out two 'weaknesses', the second of which is what I'm more interested in - lack of precision - using too many 'big' words to describe something you can with smaller, more precise, simple everyday words. A lot of people are guilty of this, including myself. We just want to speak with big words, maybe we think it'll make us look smart or intelligent.

These two passages were carefully examined in the essay, from the bible and reads:
"I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all".
Simple and concise and understandable. Now here is the same passage but in a style often used by an educated person in the twenty first century:
"Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account"
The second passage is unnecessarily 'wordy' and 'abstract'; it's meaning is less direct - but it is, unfortunately, the sort of writing likely to be found nowadays.
The first passage contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, the second contains forty-eight words and ninety syllables.

We like big words, we know we do, but big words don't always make for good english, concise and consistent is the way to go.

Orwell concludes his essay by providing some rules, below:
1. Never use metaphor, smilie or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3. If it is possible to cut a word out, cut it out.
4. Never use the passive where you can use the active (an example of the passive: 'I was knocked down by a bus', the active: 'a bus knocked me down').
5. Never use a foreign word, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday english equivalent.
6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Even though the essay was written in 1946, we still find a lot of what Orwell speaks about occurring.

**Parts curled from George Orwell's 'Politics and English language'**

Till next time,, Keep dreaming!!


Stephanie @ Life, Unexpectedly said...

I totally agree. Use big words where necessary (writing) and stick to every-day words besides. I remember several years ago, my friend asked me to check her sister's application for a position as a English language camp instructor. She tried to use a lot of big words to impress, but they just didn't fit. I slimmed it down, and she was surprised that it was "so simple". She got the job!

champ king said...

Yeah. It's that easy. The point of speaking and writing is communication, & that is defeated with big words.