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Politics and the English Language

4.33 of 5 stars 4.33  ·  rating details  ·  1,332 ratings  ·  115 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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Paquita Maria Sanchez
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

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
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.

Unfortunately, many people focus on five of the six rules near the end and try to apply them regardless of context. That was not Orwell's intention, which is why he didn't follow them slavishly in his own writing - including this
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.
Ken Moten
Dec 16, 2013 Ken Moten rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
Barry Pierce
Mar 03, 2014 Barry Pierce rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Jul 08, 2011 Carlo rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
“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
Mark Rice
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
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
Will Vousden
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
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
Read for insights and Orwell's obvious distaste for highfalutin language. He throws shade like no other.
Fergus Ray murray
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
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.
Sam Quixote
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
Be specific. Illustrate your point. Compare these two passages.


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 w
"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 squinting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as 'keeping out of politics'. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find - this is a gues ...more
Rawan Almurshed
"Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude."
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.

- George Orwell

As one partial to a spot of sesquipedalianism, Orwell’s essay is a particularly poignant piece of prose.

I do get big fat chufties from using fancy sounding long words, but of course logorrheic loveliness adds gravitas groundlessly.

Some delightful consonantal alliteration there, don’t you think?

As there are a million wonderfully diverse words availa
Roxy Rosen
I couldn't think of much else to say about this essay that I didn't already say in a paper for school a few years ago, so with your indulgence (don't worry, citations removed)...

The bulk of George Orwell's essay Politics and the English Language, which is supposed to be about the degeneration of political rhetoric and the causes and effects of that deterioration, spends more time critiquing the English of Orwell's day and not enough time talking about his main point, which is that political writ
Through "Politics and the English Language", Orwell has given us an important insight as to how language could be used in a certain way to conceal the interests/political ideologies of powerful groups. It encourages us not to be more critical on how we read political language, and thus not letting yourself be manipulated by it. He succinctly outlined rules on how one should use language, which I think is quite important. Overall yet another powerful essay by Orwell.
Jasmin Kirkbride
In recent weeks, possibly due to the fact I live in a rabbit warren the sun never hits, I have been forced to tune my bodyclock to something more reliable than the English winter sunshine. I’ve been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to use Radio 4 to wake me up in the mornings. Whether I end up hitting the snooze button or not, it is certainly proving to be excellent company: during yoga, eating breakfast, beginning the day’s research. I confess, I’m becoming a bit of an addict.

"Political language has to consist of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness." In other words, modern people are interested in making language more fancy-dancy, which leads to vagueness by the use of unnecessary words and phrases, than honest which expresses the true of what one is trying to say.

The vagueness of language is not only applied on politics but also in the press and literary criticism. What Orwell trying to say is that of one has something to say, say it as simple an
The night I started reading this, I had the most horrendous dream of communist Russia kidnapping babies with a view to turning humans into giant walking rabbit ears, as depicted in some propaganda poster they showed me (whilst they were telling me their plan - stupid villains!). The idea was that humans wouldn't have brains to think with or mouths to voice their opinions with, just ears to absorb what they were being told. Of course, we rescued the baby and I woke up shortly after a new threat e ...more
Tyler Talbott
"By simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in...they will construct your sentences for you--even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent--and they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear."
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
Taiyesha-Duchess of Indiana
Uhhh there is no way in hell, I'm writing a review over a classic Writers essay on Why the English language is deteriorating! Read it! Be a better Writer/Reader. I doubt you will enjoy reading it. I know I wanted to gauge my eyes. However, It is thought provoking and helpful
Heather Fryling
How often have you come across this sort of nonsense,

"Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account,"

when what really should have been said is,

"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 wi
Minh Quan Nguyen
Everyone who cares about writing in general or political writing in particular should learn by heart. This is one of greatest essays about the relation between language and thinking. In this short essay, Orwell gives so many examples about the corruption of language and how it affects thinking. My favourite example:

Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good resu
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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.

Between 1941 and 1943, Orwell worked on propaganda for the BBC. In 1943, he became literary ed
More about George Orwell...
1984 Animal Farm Animal Farm / 1984 Down and Out in Paris and London Homage to Catalonia

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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?” 416 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.” 72 likes
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