it’s a trip . . .

tips, quotes, insights, and lessons about writing and publishing learned the hard way

The Big Five from George Orwell

the big five

the big five

This year I was a presenter in the Greater Reading Literary Festival. I did a workshop on how to write flash fiction for campus community members who attended over their lunch hours, or in the case of some students, whose teachers sent them there, who were easy to spot–they were the ones sleeping in the back.

I was looking for some pithy advice to share with workshopees and found these tenets by George Orwell, which I now post for you.

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.

Out of the entire Serengeti of writing advice available on the Internet, I thought these were five predators worth pursuing. (Just so you know, I could have said “pantheon of writing advice,” but then I would violating number one of the big five, so I tried to go for something fresher since I violated number four in saying “were worth pursuing”.)

If we could write or at least edit our work adhering to these five rules, our writing would improve in elephantine proportions.

I’m inclined to use too many words, too many big words, and not to work hard enough to come up with an original figure of speech.

How about you, dear readers? Are you stalked by any of these big five ?


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  • my author bio . . .

    I began writing creatively three years ago, fueled by midlife and a Curves' addiction. Since then, I have published short work in The Christian Science Monitor and Sirens Magazine in the same year. How's that for versatility!
    Sirens Magazine

    Sirens Magazine

    Also the Duck & Herring Company's Pocket Field Guide, The Giggle Water Review, Alighted, Wet Ink Press, America's Funniest Humor, Brilliant!, Laughter Loaf, Flash-Flooding, and the Greensilk Journal where my short story, "How I Boinked John Cusack" won editor's pick.
    The Greensilk Journal

    The Greensilk Journal

    My newest novel, THE SHAKER PROPOSAL, has received numerous accolades, the latest a fifth-place in the 2008 annual NWA (National Writing Association) Novel Contest.


    I am a marketing professional by vocation (but not by choice). My husband and I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania—the sounds, sites, smells, and flavors of which are a never-ending source of literary inspiration.
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