Hi there tout la gang,

We don't have much to say about research in practice at the Café right now

but we are talking policy and practice over here now: Literacy Enquirers.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

being clear

If you've never read George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" (1946), you're missing a treat. He argues that too many writers don't bother to "[pick] out words for the sake of their meaning and [invent] images in order to make the meaning clearer." Instead, they "[gum] together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else".

Orwell's view is that these all-too-pervasive habits can lead to careless thinking, as writers can get bogged down in familiar phrases on their way to seeking exactly how to express what they want to say. More dangerous, he says, is the way in which this type of writing is used in politics.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

His essay is a call to "send worn-out and useless phrase[s]...into the dustbin, where [they] belong. It also includes a useful checklist for writing clear prose.

Check it out!

1 comment:

Wendell said...

Sometimes a learner will want to read one of my posts. When that happens, I get to sit beside them and witness every single time I used the bigger word when a smaller one would have worked just as well.

There's been an off-and-on conversation about education related web jargon happening across several blogs. I often think, "Well, I know I don't use jargon!" Then a learner proves me wrong.

Clear writing - and plain speaking - deserves to be an on-going professional development goal in a whole host of fields, including literacy.

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