Orwellian gobbledygook

Too often we try to hide ourselves behind big words that don’t mean much. It is unfortunate that we find it very hard to follow the simple advice: Say it as you see it.

Andreas Kluth of the Economist calls all this Orwellian gobbledygook because it was George Orwell who pointed out in his famous essay Politics and the English language that, “The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness”.

Kluth believes the two reasons we do this are:

1. Laziness: Speaking or writing clearly takes enormous effort.

2. Fear or cowardice: If you write clearly you use strong words which can offend somebody, and that is something you will not want to do.

The key to clear writing

…is clear thinking. From the Economist Style guide:

“A scrupulous writer”, observed Orwell, “in every sentence that he writes will ask himself at least these questions:

  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?”

Context, Content & Quantity

Being said to whom, where and why? What is the message that needs to be conveyed? How much time do you have?

In any conversation, from telling others what you do to convincing others to buy what you are selling, three things need to be given special attention – Context, Content & Quantity.

Context: Make it as relevant to the listener as possible.

Content: Make it as simple as possible.

Quantity: Conveying the content in as little as possible without affecting the context or the message being conveyed adversely.