Writing rules

Good writing is about conveying information as simply and powerfully as possible. Here are some basic points.

Here are some basic rules, mainly recommended by George Orwell.

• Never use a long word where a short one will do. We prefer ‘about’ to ‘approximately’, ‘let’ to ‘permit’.

• Cut out as many words as possible. Keep articles short. Don’t worry about going into detail about boring points. Nothing should be longer than 500 words. One word you should cut out is ‘that’ – it’s rarely needed. E.g. Jane discovered that she was pregnant.

• Write actively, not passively. Say someone did something, not had something done to him/her. E.g. A man shot his dog, not a dog was shot by a man.

• Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Keep things simple. E.g. Per year, not per annum.

• Avoid clichés if you can. Always try to think of a fresh way of saying something. However, don’t sacrifice clarity for fancy writing. When using figures of speech, always ask yourself if it would be quicker and clearer to just tell someone what happened.

• Keep paragraphs short. Readers get tired quickly online, and any paragraph longer than five lines will turn them off. Paragraphs should be one or two sentences long for news and sport.

Remember, clarity of writing usually follows clarity of thought. So think what you want to say, then say it as simply as possible.

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