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Politics and the English Language

by George Orwell
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Why did Orwell write "Politics and the English Language"?

Orwell wrote "Politics and the English Language" to argue that the abuse of language is dangerous because it is connected to the abuse of political power and to lay out principles of clear writing and thinking.

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Orwell wrote "Politics and the English Language" in 1945 because he had become increasingly alarmed over the connection between the misuse of language and the misuse of politics. He saw a direct connection between abuse of political power and abuse of language. He wrote the essay to explore...

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Orwell wrote "Politics and the English Language" in 1945 because he had become increasingly alarmed over the connection between the misuse of language and the misuse of politics. He saw a direct connection between abuse of political power and abuse of language. He wrote the essay to explore ways language was being misused to support evil, pointing, for example, to the vague language and euphemisms that supported the brutal and exploitative British regime in India.

In the essay, Orwell chooses five passages from various sources containing vague and misleading language. He then locates the most glaring problems and describes how to correct them. He writes that the "slovenliness [in the use] of our language makes it easier to have foolish thoughts."

Orwell's rules for good writing are still central to clear and precise writing today. They include avoiding clichés; using short, simple words instead of long, complex ones; cutting out unneeded words; using the active rather than the passive voice; and avoiding foreign phrases and jargon.

Orwell believed that democracies could be very easily undermined through deceptive and unclear use of language, which can make evil sound good and allow false or sloppy logic to pass for wisdom or truth. He fleshes out these ideas fully in his two most famous novels, Animal Farm and 1984, in which abuse of language by the ruling elite allows evil and oppression to flourish.

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