Saturday, June 17, 2017

More Tips for Writing

Orwell's Rules for Writing

It is nice to have a short list of tips for writing to share with your children.  Teaching good writing is such matter of taste and style that it is hard teach writing.  This short list of 6 rules from George Orwell is famous.  It is from his essay, "Politics and the English Language."
  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.

Rule 6 about barbarous writing is silly, but he wrote it.

I also found in the internet these 6 questions to use for examining your writing.  These are supposed to be from Orwell as well.
1.  What am I trying to say?
2.  What words will express it?
3.  What image or idiom will make it clearer?
4.  Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?
5.  Could I put it more shortly?
6.  Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

I believe question 6 explains what Orwell meant by his 6th rule.

Vonnegut's Rules for Writing Fiction

Here I found 8 rules for writing fiction by Kurt Vonnegut.
  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
George Orwell is a British writer most famous for the books Animal Farm and 1984.  Kurt Vonnegut's most famous book was Slaughterhouse-Five, which was turned into a movie.

College is too late to learn to write.  A number of classes require papers to be written.  Some tests have essay questions.  Whatever weaknesses are in your child's writing will cost your child  points again and again.  I believe middle-school and the freshman year of high school are important years to work with your child's writing.  After the freshman year the young people tend to become stubborn and difficult to coach on their writing.

These are great rules from Georg Orwell and Kurt Vonnegut.  I hope you and your children find them helpful.


A Good Book for Self-Editing

Editing your words and sentences is an important part of writing.  The best book I have run across for self-editing is Edit Yourself: A Manual for Everyone Who Works with Words by Bruce Ross-Larson.  My favorite chapters are chapter 1, Fat, chapter 2, The Better Word, and chapter 6, Dangling Constructions.

No comments: