Re: Orwell on Language

Subject: Re: Orwell on Language
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- AXIONET -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 31 Mar 1997 18:39:37 -0500

Stuart Burnfield <slb -at- FS -dot- COM -dot- AU> wrote:

>He didn't just do it, he made it the last of his 'general >principles' (he calls them rules):

" vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright
barbarous."

A good point! But he might have added, "Break any of these rules rather
than communicate uneffectively."

>his non-fiction is well worth the attention of any serious >writer or reader. It got me started on the road to being a >tech writer.

You don't know your danger: you're responding to a recovering academic!
But I'm down to two critical essays a day :-), and I've got to admit
that Orwell helped get me started, too. In fact, considering the number
of radio scripts he did for the BBC--including daily news
broadcasts--I'm tempted to stretch the point and consider him one of the
luminaries of tech-writing (alaong with William Blake, who did a
Wedgewood catalogue).

>Can you name any prescriptive grammarians who recommend always >avoiding the passive voice?

I wasn't thinking of any professional grammarians in particular. I was
thinking more of the countless of teachers and textbook writers who have
tried to simplify the act of writing into a series of basic rules. And I
should also add the style-deaf designers of grammar checkers.

I really wish that people would stop thinking of grammar as a fossil and
realize that it's a living thing.

--
Bruce Byfield (bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com)
Technical Writer
IBM WAVE Group
Burnaby, BC, Canada
h: (604) 421-7189 o: (604) 293-5781

"Doubtless a distrust of human reason is reasonable, but
few adventures are more honourable than an attempt to
live by it."
--Eric Gill, "An Essay on Typography"

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