George Orwell makes a regular appearance in one of my training courses.
It may be almost 75 years since the author’s, Politics and the English Language, was published. But, like most good advice, it’s stood the test of time.
The essay criticises the ‘ugly and inaccurate’ written English of the time. I wonder what he would have made of 2020.
Mangling the language and twisting meanings isn’t a new problem, nor reserved solely for Facebook and Twitter. It was prevalent in Orwell’s time. Fortunately in his essay he offered help to those who aspired to something a little better.
Among his gems were ‘if it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out’ and ‘never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent’.
How many of us are guilty of failing this advice?
Journalists despair at the clumsy, overlong and self-absorbed witterings that often reach their Inboxes disguised as press releases.
Press release writing advice? Get to the point!
When constructing a press release, or indeed any kind of written communication, get to the point quickly. That’s even more vital today than back in the 40s. Attention spans are limited, time is short and no one has the inclination to try to work out what the long-winded writer intended.
If your aim is to raise awareness of your new product or service to an audience, then don’t turn them off with lots of language only understood by those with a deep knowledge of the industry.
Write in simple terms. Tell them what the service or product does and, most importantly, explain what ‘pain’ this solves. If it will cut production time in half or be a problem-solving world-first in the sector – say that.
At journalism schools it always used to be ‘how would you tell the story to your neighbour?’ It’s unlikely there would be a lengthy preamble. More a case of get to the point before they wander off and do something more interesting.
While the author may have implored us to strip out superfluous words, he also demonstrated the power and imagery of a lyrical sentence.
On political language, he said it was “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
Beautifully, and pointedly, done. But unless you have the great man’s flair for words, maybe sticking to his rules would serve you better.
I’ll be bringing Orwell’s points bang up to date with my next training course. That’s Writing press releases and for the media – in conjunction with North and West Lancashire Chamber of Commerce – on Wednesday January 22. Details for this one-dayer on press release writing advice here.