What George Orwell can teach us about copywriting

George Orwell Politics and the English Language copywriting tips

George Orwell may be best known as a novelist, but he also wrote an essay called Politics and the English Language. Published in 1946, Orwell’s essay explores six simple concepts of writing that are strikingly relevant to modern copywriting.

Let’s take a look:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

Does it feel like you’re just churning out the same sort of content everyone else is writing? Look for clichés and tired turns of phrase in your copywriting and replace them with something more original.

2) Never use a long word where a short word will do.

Too many copywriters think they sound clever by using long words. They don’t.

3) If it is possible to cut a word out, do it.

First drafts always contain filler. If you don’t have someone copy editing your work (a practice we highly recommend), you will need to edit it yourself. Go through every sentence of your work and strip out unnecessary fluff.

4) Never use the passive when you can use the active.

“The dog bit the man” is active.

“The man was bitten by the dog” is passive.

Not only is the active verb phrase more compelling, it’s also shorter. This means that by obeying rule 4, you help to cover off rule 2. Nice!

5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Nobody likes business-ese, so swap corporate waffle for plain English and watch your engagement metrics sky-rocket!

6) Break any of these rules rather than say something barbarous.

All rules are made to be broken! If you have a good reason to ignore any or all of the above, go for it.

Always remember that copywriting is an art as much as a science, so only follow rules that help, and don’t hinder, the creative process. Use whatever you feel helps you improve your copywriting, and discard anything likely to hold you back.