Comics / Spotlight / Knowledge and Scholarship

George Orwell Politics and the English Language

By Hervé St-Louis
March 16, 2013 - 23:12

George Orwell’s Politics and the English Language criticizes aspects of modern English writing using imagery to convey ideas. He argues that concerns over grammar and syntax are secondary, as long as readers understand authors. Orwell relies on scholarly, political, and journalistic examples of “ugly” writings from various sources to convince readers.

However, Orwell’s mock example of how modern writers would rewrite a passage from Ecclesiastes does not convince. The metaphors expressed in the original are not easily understood by lay persons and the jargon-filled stale version Orwell decries may offer more understanding to current readers than the one the British writer praises.

Orwell’s prescriptions continue with a list of rules he encourages readers to break. He admits that his writing is filled with the same vague metaphors he denounces. Failing to share examples of great classical English writing, Orwell blames unknown political and economic causes for the decline of written English.


Orwell, G. (n.d.). Politics and the English Language. Retrieved March 16, 2013, from George Orwell:

Editor's notes: this article was written to help students for a course on the Rhetoric of Communication taught at the University of Toronto in Mississauga where I am an assistant instructor. If you are an instructor and notice that one of your own students has plagiarized this article, this is the original source of the article. No authorizations has been given to quote or use this article in any way.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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