George Orwell on Writing and Language

Orwell on good writing:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, 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, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, 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.

In “Politics and the English Language”, Orwell writes not only the above but also discusses his thoughts on the ability of language to corrupt.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.

In essence, we can derive from Orwell’s quote that the poorer the language, the poorer our thoughts become.

Food for thought:

-what are the implications of short-form communication tools like twitter and other social media tools?

-how is language used in marketing and politics to essentially manipulate our thoughts and emotions?

Tools against thought corruption (or less darkly – lazy thinking/language) :

– slow down and think

– use critical thinking

– ask questions (is this true [or more specifically: what of it is true and untrue]? what of it? it this important? what is missing? so what and then what? what does the other party gain by potentially misleading me?)

LINK – Orwell’s Essay


Red Queen

In Lewis Carroll’s, Through the Looking Glass, in an incident dubbed the Red Queen’s race, finds the Red Queen and Alice constantly running but remaining in the same spot. To which the they exchange the following remarks:

Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!

And ain’t that the truth! The Red Queen Hypothesis was coined by Leigh Van Halen and is explained in it’s wiki entry:

Indeed, an adaptation in a population of one species (e.g. predators, parasites …) may change the selection pressure on a population of another species (e.g.prey,hosts …), giving rise to an antagonistic coevolution. If this occurs reciprocally, a potential dynamic coevolution may result. [4] He called that idea the “Red Queen Hypothesis” in reference Red Queen’s race in Lewis Carroll‘s Through the Looking-Glass because species had to evolve in order to stay in the same place.

This has to do with evolution in species but I’d like to think it applies to other areas as well. One area that I have thought about where this applies to is my career. I decided to pursue an accounting designation to top up my Bachelor of Commerce degree in Finance about four years ago. When informed at the time, my colleagues, managers, family members and friends mostly remarked that it was an excellent choice and it would get me ahead in my career. But I’ve always had an unsettling feeling in my head, that it’s not really about getting ahead, but really staying competitive in my field- or essentially “running” to stay where I already am.

There’s no better anecdotal evidence than having a discussion on what it took to move into management 30-40 years ago. A good head on the shoulders and high school diploma would do wonders! About 20 years ago, you could substitute the high school education with a college/university degree. And now, ESPECIALLY, with the great recession that occurred about 8 years ago-in which many many graduates and unemployed persons went back to school as it was the logical thing to do since the job market was so terrible and now many entering or re-entering the work force have multiple degrees, post graduate degrees, certifications and or designations. Anyways, it’ll be the new new standard to which career advice will be given.

It is, I do believe a little unsettling, this feeling of constantly “running” only to remain in the same spot, however, it is in my opinion, we should strive to remember, it is the growth of the individual that makes the collective stronger – whether that be your business, organization, family, friends, community or anything else you are apart. And finally, It is your own personal growth that will give you fulfillment and perhaps not the pursuit of other racers around you.