Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Orwell on Advertising.

If you've never read Orwell's famous essay, "Politics and the English Language," you really ought to go to the link below and do so. It will likely be good for your career.

Orwell is all about precise communication. Saying what you mean. Being honest. And clear. Not saying "troop surge" when you're in fact escalating a war. Not saying "extraordinary rendition" when you're really subcontracting torture.

Marketers wind up using a lot of similarly deceptive and flaccid language and images too. They're not as dangerous as the Bush-isms above, but they do breed distrust and cause consumers to stop paying attention. They're advertising bullshit. And unlike real bullshit, they're transparent.

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Here's a link to Orwell and an excerpt.
mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

"I think the following rules will cover most cases:
  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never us a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable."

7 comments:

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