OT: What songwriters could learn from George Orwell

george orwell

While I’m certainly guilty of violating the forthcoming Orwellian “rules” in both my songwriting and in my non-lyric writing, it doesn’t mean I don’t aspire.

The following tips taken from “Politics and the English Language,” and nicely summarized here, are valuable for any of us who write lyrics, write bios, write business/marketing plans, or pretty much write anything at all:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

What am I trying to say?
What words will express it?
What image or idiom will make it clearer?
Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:
Could I put it more shortly?
Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

One can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails.

I think the following rules will cover most cases:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
Never use a long word where a short one will do.
If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Never use the passive where you can use the active.
Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

I shall do my best.


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