Copywriting Tips From George Orwell

What would George Orwell make of the age of Trump?

Orwell, the English writer behind classics Animal Farm and 1984, was a fierce idealist. He fought against Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War and wrote books about living in poverty.

One of his most powerful essays is “Politics and the English Language.” Even in the middle of the 20th century, Orwell feared the power of language to distort meaning and cajole the populace toward policies that did not serve their interests. And that was before Twitter and 8 second TV soundbites.

Orwell wrote that political language “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

It was true of politics then, and it is even more true of both politics and marketing now. As Orwell wrote in 1984“But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” 

Words have meaning, and consequences. Today we are adrift in a sea of meaningless words, where up is down, wrong is right and “new and improved” means a shiny new package for the same old product.

It’s made us cynical.

And it poisons marketing. Every company is a “leading” company, every product is “revolutionary” and will “change the world.”

It’s all blah, blah, blah. No one pays attention.

Orwell offered some uncomplicated solutions to this creeping problem. These are tips that everyone who writes anything should embrace: Write clearly, cut unnecessary words, avoid big words, cliches and technical jargon, and stop using the passive voice.

Now look at the copy in most blog posts, press releases or marketing copy you see – what’s there? Pretty much everything Orwell said to avoid.

Why is this? Because it seems “professional” to make grandiose, boastful claims, or to use big words and jargon.

Ugh.

Be more authentic. Write better copy. Speak the truth.

You will achieve so much more.

Allan Gates

<p>Allan Gates is a partner with Bonfire.</p>