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Politics and the English Language

4.30  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,004 Ratings  ·  169 Reviews
"Politics and the English Language" (1946) is an essay by George Orwell that criticises the "ugly and inaccurate" written English of his time and examines the connection between political orthodoxies and the debasement of language. The essay focuses on political language, which, according to Orwell, "is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to gi ...more
ebook, 20 pages
Published 1946
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Politics and the English Language by George OrwellGuns, Germs, and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Gettysburg Address by Abraham LincolnDas Kapital - Capital by Karl MarxThe Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
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1st out of 58 books — 6 voters
Politics and the English Language by George OrwellChildren of the Alley by Naguib MahfouzArt After Philosophy and After by Joseph KosuthThe Universe in a Nutshell by Stephen HawkingCamera Lucida by Roland Barthes
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Cecily
Apr 13, 2016 Cecily rated it liked it
Note the first word of the title: politics. It's important.

The essay demonstrates how politicians use language to persuade and deceive, and conversely, how to write factual information in a way that is honest and clear.

There are memorable examples and some good advice. Timeless advice - that is also timely for those in the UK currently bombarded with opinions about the forthcoming referendum on EU membership.

Unfortunately, many people focus on five of the six rules near the end and try to apply
...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Feb 14, 2011 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it
Shelves: truthiness
Want to be a super-intimidated goodreader? Well, then. I suggest that you consider writing a review about a brilliant novelist's essay tearing apart modern writing for all of its cliches, stylistic ostentatiousness/wordiness resulting in (sometimes intentional) vagueness, and every other linguistic foible you could ever imagine that you and I frequently (accidentally, in our case) commit. Oh, and this essay concludes with not only a detailed map of how you should be writing (bullet points and al ...more
Garima

This was an insightful and relevant lesson about the usage and analysis of English language in the Political context. Orwell with his sharp wit and influential prose has given us enough food for thought to mull over. It’s possible that next time while reading a newspaper or watching news channels, you’ll find yourself forming a critique about the manipulation of facts and trivializing of important matters in today’s times.

Here are some quotes which I found particularly wonderful:

- In our time i
...more
Vipassana
Jun 06, 2015 Vipassana rated it liked it
Fresh on the heels of 1984, I read Will Self's shoddy argument against all things Orwell replete with every logical fallacy in the book. Considering what a short essay this is, it seemed like a good time to read it.

Orwell's rules for writing here are specifically with respect to politics and not the literary use of language. He states it so clearly that it's surprising how anyone could think otherwise. Orwell even confesses that he tends to do the same things that he writes against in this essay
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Joey
Sep 12, 2015 Joey rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays, writing
Sentence 1 : I had this burning sensation of shame while absorbing myself in this essay.
Sentence 2 : I was ashamed of myself while reading this essay.

Which sentence do you find easier to understand?

This essay is like a simple term paper with objective analyses and conclusions. Or I’d rather say that George Orwell was like a psycho-linguist studying the words we usually use as specimens. First, he presented five passages he picked from articles. Second, he discussed the theories of phraseology.
...more
Barry Pierce
Mar 03, 2014 Barry Pierce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Orwell
Recommended to Barry by: Sanne
Orwell is a man after my own heart. This essay is basically about people using the English language incorrectly and why all political writing is bad, plus, a review of Mein Kampf! Orwell's stance on the English language is the same as mine, the language is fine the way it is, stop changing it! However, I do disagree with Orwell on one thing. Orwell states that one should should never use complicated words. He says that if you think if writing a big, complicated word but there is a plain simple E ...more
Nisreen
Jun 06, 2013 Nisreen rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest essays I have ever read about the relation between language and politics. A must-read for writers, and any one interested in deconstructing political discourse.
Orwell's precise, clear and simple language is an example of how theoretical and political discourse should be rather than the meaningless and pretentious endless formations of misused jargon we encounter nowadays in newspapers and books.
MissSugarTown
Sep 10, 2015 MissSugarTown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Language is important, it is not just a combination of sounds as I used to think. A poor language implies poor ideas which imply a weak society, and poor ideas lead to a poor language... Orwell will always make me think, this is my first essay by him and surely not the last. Read it read it read it !
Ken Moten
May 11, 2015 Ken Moten rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: College students; Goodreads long-form reviewers; people who need to know why a thesaurus is useful
Before I get to Orwell and the essay, I must do something I never thought I would do--quote the Leviathan: With Selected Variants from the Latin Edition of 1668 in a positive manner:

"Special uses of speech are these: first, to register what by cogitation we find to be the cause of anything, present or past; and what we find things present or past may produce, or effect; which, in sum, is acquiring of arts. Secondly, to show to others that knowledge which we have attained; which is to counsel an
...more
Carlo
Jul 08, 2011 Carlo rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Carlo by: Laura
Orwell describes how language can affect thought. The essay is full of examples about how vague expressions convey much more unclear meanings than "simple" expressions, and how frequently used phrases can even do the thinking for you.

I believe what Orwell is talking about is true for more than just politics and for more than just the English language. Fictional and non-fictional writings are also suffering from the use of bad language. The two languages that I speak fluently (i.e. Armenian and
...more
Andrew
Oct 24, 2014 Andrew rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
“Politics and the English Language” is an essay written by the novelist George Orwell and published in 1946. It criticizes the written English of his time. Orwell argues for a writing style that is plain and transparent. The most important thing in writing is to make one’s meaning clear.

Orwell brings up numerous problems that plague writers’ works. The most important of these issues is the use of canned phrases. Many writers do not take the time to craft new sentences with select words that spec
...more
Mark Rice
May 01, 2013 Mark Rice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't be put off by the word 'politics' in the title. This guide deals with language - spoken or written - and how to express oneself clearly in words. Orwell's rules of writing are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them, perhaps even more so in this age of grammatical vandalism. Using examples of vacuous political writing, Orwell critically shreds them, driving home the importance of clarity and specificity in language. To make his points, Orwell critiques shambolic political prose, ...more
Lisa
Feb 25, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing
You know when you stumble onto a passage in writing that articulates your thoughts for you better than you are able? In fact, helps those thoughts to grow to adult height? This essay was one of those for me, in its entirety.

It discusses our chronic lack of clarity in writing and the muddled and vague thinking unclarity props up. Now working in development, the essay feels like some combination of vaccination, antidote and prescription sunglasses.

An excerpt:
"Now that I have made this catalogue
...more
Sumirti Singaravel


......to make pretentiousness unfashionable.



The very essence of this majestic essay of George Orwell is to elucidate and help the general (interested) mass to understand how far language as a tool is used repeatedly to manipulate, subvert and to lie in the realm of politics. Or, if one needs to be more precise, this essay is about how language is being used by those in power to gain their desired ends, which in most cases is morally unjust, without ever irking the masses whom they profess t
...more
Will Vousden
May 28, 2014 Will Vousden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An entertaining and eloquent polemic over the declining quality of people's use of English. He cuttingly and wittily takes apart the "problems" with modern English through selected examples and parodies of his own.

He is especially offended by insincerity (obscured by wordy and opaque turns of speech in which all meaning is lost) and laziness in writing (in resorting to pre-fabricated phrases and worn-out metaphors that are chosen for convenience rather than aptness). He goes on to argue that the
...more
Jonathan
Jul 19, 2010 Jonathan rated it it was amazing
Orwell read my mind with this one. I have always hated political jargon for its vagueness. Orwell's idea of precise diction also applies to other fields. Diction is the only reason that we can't reach an agreement in fields like natural philosophy and economics. I don't like all of his work, but this was one of the best essays that I've ever read.
Rebecca Xun
Oct 07, 2014 Rebecca Xun rated it really liked it
Read for insights and Orwell's obvious distaste for highfalutin language. He throws shade like no other.
Fergus Murray
Sep 04, 2013 Fergus Murray rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
The title essay here is the one piece of writing that I most want everybody in the world to read. The weasel-wording and deliberate distortions of today's politicians, news media and adverts are just as poisonous as they were in Orwell's day. While their techniques are more sophisticated than ever, the underlying tactics are still very much the same as those Orwell tears apart here. As long as people fail to arm themselves against these things, democracy can never run smoothly.

I also rate 'Why I
...more
Jana
Jun 01, 2016 Jana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting, but I didn't take as much away from it as I had hoped to.
Trever Polak
Aug 18, 2015 Trever Polak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whilst I concur with the majority of this exploration of the political aspects of complex English prose writing, I am compelled to inform the reader that aspects of the author's argument contain flaws which are, although minor, important.
Tam Sothonprapakon
Apr 13, 2016 Tam Sothonprapakon rated it it was amazing
Having read two of his most famous novels (you probably know which ones I'm talking about) a year ago, I thought I should start reading his essays too, as many people have said that Orwell's essays are very insightful and well-written.

So I decided to start with this one, "Politics and the English Language", because it's only 20 pages long and I have a lot of books left waiting to be read. (I need to stop buying so many books, seriously.)

It turns out to be really good as I expected. The writing i
...more
Miriam
Mar 01, 2015 Miriam rated it really liked it
Shelves: highly-recommend
I thought this was a fantastic essay!
Orwell advises to lessen the use of highfalutin and superfluous words and as much as possible to simplify the use of english words that could be understood by any layman. Beating around the bush by using flowery words might just get you in more trouble and you might look foolish if the words you use won't translate your ideas across well, leaving it to be vague or incomprehensible.
Simplicity, clarity and poignancy, that's what it's all about.
I wish I had r
...more
Elise
Nov 26, 2015 Elise rated it really liked it
Quite biased. I was upset to find that I disagreed with a lot of Orwell's points, especially since it seems as if he forgets that the whole point of language is to communicate and that sometimes things sound better with fancy Latin words and cliche phrases. I imagine it would be rather boring in a world with no "unnecessary" adjectives (which he, himself used at times to persuade us to his point of view).

However, the point of this review is not to evaluate Orwell's thinking, but rather to evalua
...more
Megan
Jan 09, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
Anyone who writes, reads, or cares about the meaning of words needs to read this. It's freely available online, so you have no excuses not to read it immediately.
Signe
Woah. I've really got to start writing essays completely different and stop being so damn pretentious, haven't I? (I need to read more Orwell!)
Nhatlan
Jun 04, 2014 Nhatlan rated it it was amazing
Mind-opening essay. Simple and concise language. First published in 1946, the issue is still relevant to current context. George Orwell points out the corruption of thoughts and language as the cost of politic immorality. He is offended by the insincerity (the overuse of wordy and pretentious jargon to polish meaningless prose in political speeches) and the laziness (excessive use of ready-made phrases and dying metaphors that are chosen for convenience rather than efficiency) of fashionable wr ...more
Sam Quixote
Jun 02, 2013 Sam Quixote rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This pamphlet-sized publication contains George Orwell’s superb 1945 essay “Politics and the English Language” and his 1941 review of Adolf Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf”.

What seems at first a pedantic viewpoint of railing against bad language, grammar, and so on, like a 1940s version of Lynne Truss, becomes far more complex and thoughtful - while still being accessible to the general reader. Orwell objects to the bad use of the English language firstly as a writer himself and then moves onto a dif
...more
Erwin
Dec 15, 2012 Erwin rated it really liked it
Shelves: educate-kids
Be specific. Illustrate your point. Compare these two passages.

Ecclesiastes:

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.


Modern English:
Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate
...more
Daniel
Jan 15, 2016 Daniel rated it liked it
Orwell criticises the current use of the English language, in particular critiquing people for using words and phrases that have become meaningless, and sees this most reflected in political language, which he states '...is designed to make lies sound truthful & murder respectable & to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind"
Zeynep Nur
Kitapcigin icinde Orwell'in dil hakkinda bir denemesi ve 1940'ta yazdigi Mein Kampf hakkinda bir elestiri bulunuyor. Politics and the English Language'de kullanilan kelimeler yer yer beni zorlasa da anlamakta cok da gucluk cekilecek bir yazi degil. Kelime bilgisine bakiyor demek daha dogru olur. Genel olarak dilin kotu kullanilmasinin insanlari aptalca dusuncelere sevk ettigini ve insanlarin kelimelerinin anlamlarini bilmemesinden duydugu rahatsizligi dile getirmis Orwell ve bu konuda ona katilm ...more
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Eric Arthur Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English author and journalist. His work is marked by keen intelligence and wit, a profound awareness of social injustice, an intense opposition to totalitarianism, a passion for clarity in language, and a belief in democratic socialism.

In addition to his literary career Orwell served as a a police officer with the Indian Imperia
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“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?” 467 likes
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink.” 93 likes
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