pencil with three dialogue bubbles above it filled with writing

Politics and the English Language

by George Orwell
Start Free Trial

What is Orwell's main point in "Politics and the English Language"?

Orwell's main point in "Politics and the English Language" is that contemporary English, particularly political writing, is generally feeble and vague because writers do not think clearly about what they want to say or how to convey their message succinctly and vividly. This leads to the English language becoming more imprecise, which in turn leads to it becoming more useful for propaganda.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "Politics and the English Language," Orwell claims that contemporary English is generally badly written and without grace, vividness, or even clarity, and he gives several examples to illustrate his point. The first two of these come from the work of two well-known university professors, and the others...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In "Politics and the English Language," Orwell claims that contemporary English is generally badly written and without grace, vividness, or even clarity, and he gives several examples to illustrate his point. The first two of these come from the work of two well-known university professors, and the others are also from writers who are clearly well-educated. It is people such as these, Orwell claims, not the semi-educated, who are destroying the English language. Well-educated writers use pretentious, circumlocutory diction and long Latin words to obscure meaning rather than clarify it. Their imagery is stale, and they do not consider how to convey their point forcefully.

Orwell further illustrates his idea with a modern parody of a passage from the Bible. The biblical language is clear and uses simple images that would have been familiar to readers. Orwell's modern version uses no images at all, and it is dry and tedious by comparison. He points out that most writers, whether bureaucrats or academics, have little experience of the world outside their offices, which means that vivid new similes and metaphors are unlikely to occur to them.

Orwell also thinks that political writing is particularly likely to be bad, either because it is intentionally dishonest or because the writer is supporting a cause without understanding precisely what they think and why. As the English language becomes more imprecise, Orwell believes, it develops the potential to be used by tyrants and authoritarian figures to obscure meaning.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team