Orwell’s six rules for effective business writing

Business writing is full of what Orwell described as language 'designed to make lies sound respectable... and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind'. To combat this, Orwell proposed six rules of good writing as a guide to clear thought. They are as valid now as in the 1940s.

1. Avoid clichés and worn-out figures of speech, such as: 'aggressively committing to the development of next-generation best-of-breed solutions', 'while the spin doctors squabble, the clock ticks on', 'picking the low-hanging fruit', 'singing from the same hymn sheet', 'getting buy-in', 'out-of-the box', and 'pushing the peanut forward'.

2. Avoid long words if short ones will do: 'optimisation', 'maximisation', 'in accordance with', 'conditional upon', 'commencement'.

3. Shortest is best. 'In accordance with our strategy of leveraging resources to optimise the customer experience' is the same as 'to serve our customers better'.

4. Avoid dead, duplicitous passive formulations: 'it was determined that', 'a restructuring was implemented', 'certain other characteristics that are considered less advantageous'.

5. Avoid jargon in favour of everyday English: 'contextual segmentation', 'securitised single asset vehicle', 'environment' (as in 'we will integrate our knowledge management environment'), 'solution' (as in 'a one-platform, highly scalable, end-to-end solution'), 'platform', 'human resources', and 'let go'.

6. Break the rules rather than say anything outright 'barbarous'.