Are you writing memos, reports, essays, articles, or any other work you share with others?

If yes! Then improving your writing skills is the most important thing you could do for professional growth. Writing in a clear and straightforward way takes practice, unlearning bad habits, and the advice in this Byte!

boy and imaginary tiger sitting by a tree

George Orwell's Rules for Writing and Self Editing:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or another figure of speech that 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. 😅

Let's test it!

Avoid Clichés

Never use a metaphor, simile, or another figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print. They will be ignored or confusing to non-native speakers.

Examples!

  • read between the lines

  • play your cards right

  • it's an uphill battle

  • better safe than sorry

  • you can't judge a book by its cover

  • bring to the table

  • low-hanging fruit

  • the grass is always greener on the other side

    Can you think of any others?

Juggling eggs | Calvin and hobbes quotes, Calvin and hobbes, Calvin and  hobbes comics

Quiz

Jon has been a window washer for 10 years in New York City. How would you describe him?

Never Use A Long Word Where A Short One Will Do

The Examiner Examines ... Me (On Writing about Education) [Why We Write] |  The Jose Vilson

Quiz: Let's test this:

A) How can I convey the hindrance to information absorption by utilizing complex grandiose nomenclature?

B) How can I explain how hard it is for people to learn when you use big words?

Quiz

Which sentence is easier to understand?

If It Is Possible To Cut A Word Out, Always Cut It Out

Calvin and Hobbes on Twitter:

Unnecessary Text

  • Wordy: For what it’s worth, I thought the movie was terrific.

  • Concise: I thought the movie was terrific.

  • Wordy: Needless to say, we won’t be returning to that restaurant. 

  • Concise: We won’t be returning to that restaurant.

Repetitive Text

  • Wordy: I personally would prefer to test the software before buying it. 

  • Concise: I would prefer to test the software before buying it. 

  • Wordy: The lost phone is blue in color. 

  • Concise: The lost phone is blue. 

Extra Words

  • Wordy: There were four candidates vying for the position. 

  • Concise: Four candidates were vying for the position.

  • Wordy: Make sure you approach the conversation in a careful way. 

  • Concise: Make sure you approach the conversation carefully.

Never Use The Passive Where You Can Use The Active

Here Are 28 Profound Life Lessons We Learnt From Calvin & Hobbes

Sentences in the active voice have a strong, direct, and clear tone. Here are some short and straightforward examples of active voice:

Passive

  • Bananas are adored by monkeys.

  • The money was counted by the cashier.

  • The squirrel was chased by the dog.

Active

  • Monkeys adore bananas.

  • The cashier counted the money.

  • The dog chased the squirrel.

Quiz

"An error has occurred with your account, but every attempt was made to remedy it." Active or passive?

Take Action

May 20, 1990: Advice on Life and Creative Integrity from Calvin and Hobbes  Creator Bill Watterson – Brain Pickings

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This Byte has been authored by

KD

Kassie Dwarika

Director of Content Programs | Debate Coach