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September 14, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

How to be making the writing goodly


There are many ways to write any given statement. Some of them are ugly, some of them are functional, some of them are beautiful. When you are writing—especially if you’re writing for Twitter-addled youth—you should strive for beauty and functionality.

Being the Editor of Salient has opened my eyes to the many different ways of writing. Tens of emails from prospective writers stream into my inbox a week with people saying they love to write and are good at it. Sorry folks, no you’re not.

Many Salienteers have endured heavy horse whippings before their prose was in good enough shape to be published in these hallowed tomes. Most of the ideas stem from George Orwell’s six rules of writing:

  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.

The essay Politics and the English Language is just as pertinent now as when it was written in 1946. Keep these in mind when you’re writing and you can’t go wrong.


Sentences should be short. You do not need a sentence which endlessly goes on and on with many sub clauses and parenthetical statements. People who mimic Proust’s prose will induce periods of paralysis.

Metaphors, Similes and Allegories

Can be good if you’re doing them right. Metaphors can be golden. If the flow of your work is unrelenting like a lahar down Mount Ruapehu and your descriptions transcend the mundane, then please by all means use these descriptive devices. Remember: avoid clichés like the plague.


When you dont use punctuation it can be quite hard to to figure out what youre trying to say it can get quite confusing in situations where you are writing about gun slinging pandas the term eats shoots and leaves springs to mind this gets even more confusing i have seen this from some of the best writers is when there are parenthetical statements within subclauses a bit shit really.

Are rhetorical questions worthwhile?

No they are not. While being a powerful emotive tool for public speaking, by asking a rhetorical question you introduce the idea that you may be wrong. Ask multiple rhetorical questions and you run the risk the reader will assume you’re stupid (probably not unfairly).


After you’ve finished writing something, use the find tool to locate all instances of ‘that’. More often than not you can get rid of half the ‘that’s.


If you’re starting a new paragraph that contradicts the previous paragraph you don’t need to say however.

Writing like you’re talking

Please don’t like, do this, man. Unless you’re Guy Armstrong you will not get away with it.


Ellipses. If you want to sound like a clueless doofball, use ellipses more than once every paragraph.

Grammerz, spellink, txt spk and tense

Once when I was write a piece of writerngs it all was going to go horribley rong. Th pnt is nt a hrd 1 2 gt?

The only exception is when you’re like being ironic. LOL!!! WTF!? Read all previous teh grammerz by Mikey for more info on these topics.

Thesaurus function

This is a killer. Some words have very specific meanings and connotations. Use the wrong one and you end up looking like a male genitalia. (See what I did there?)


People are stupid. When they read, they don’t want to have to think. Keep words simple. Keep sentence structure simple. Exclude jargon and technical terms unless it’s totally necessary.


Please do not use Comic Sans, Times New Roman, Wingdings. For more on this please see page 33.

Read it aloud

This will force you to spot the errors you miss when you’re reading it in your head. As the Salient crew will attest, I read everything out loud.

You can throw away all these rules if your audience is yourself, your Live Journal or WordPress blog. If you want to be able to communicate effectively you need to be able to be understood. The above points address the communication problem but the most important thing to remember when you sit down at a computer is that you need to have fun.

Approved reading
Politics and the English Language, George Orwell
Stained Glass Political Platform, Stewart Chaplin
Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel, Scott Adams

Disapproved reading
Anything by Uther Dean
The President’s column
The Biography and complete works of Marcel Proust, edited by J I Tadie


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

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