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I also offer personally-tailored, individualized English conversation practice (including etiquette) and coaching in writing techniques. Finally, I edit texts such as magazines, business proposals, memorandums, emails so they are presented in English which does not embarrass you or your organization. For further details, please mail me at: language.etiquette@gmail.com

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22 February 2013

How to write clearly: a classic example

Speaking of text books as I was in the last post (see immediately below), readers might like to listen to one of the best writers of English to have put finger to typewriter key in the last hundred years or so. I am thinking of George Orwell. Of course there have been many masters of style—a few of the best known are Conan Doyle, P.G. Wodehouse, Raymond Chandler and, in a slightly different way, Philip Larkin. But Orwell was the master of prose-as-pane-of-glass (his analogy). It should, he said, interpose no distorting lens between the reader and the mind of the writer.
     Followers of this blog might like to listen to some of the programmes being broadcast in the current series on BBC Radio 4 about George Orwell. I have listened to every one and they are all interesting. But of particular relevance to this blog is the issue of clarity of writing. That comes out most clearly in Orwell’s journalism. I never thought of his novels as all that great. They certainly had a stylistic clarity, but fiction requires more than that. 
     However, if readers want to listen to a fantastic example, which is also extremely funny, of Orwell’s journalism at its extraordinary best, I recommend the programme which is devoted to reading his article about the life of a book reviewer. That is journalism of the highest order. I doubt if anyone has ever written  a better description of what Orwell wanted to describe—which, being Orwell, was more than mere book-reviewing, of course, closer to the then current state of English literary civilisation. Try it!

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