1. FirstTimeNovelist91
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    FirstTimeNovelist91 Senior Member

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    Do you agree w/George Orwell?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by FirstTimeNovelist91, Sep 6, 2012.

    Do you agree with George Orwell when he states, "Never use a long word where a short one will do"?

    I have been reading a few "hit novels" and I see a ton of massive words and find myself having to go to the dictionary.

    Is it better to use small and simple words over long, flowery ones? Which do you prefer? Simple and layman's terms or more "educated" and verbose?
     
  2. Warp Zone
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    Warp Zone Contributing Member

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    Depends on how what you're writing, I guess. Orwell's Animal Farm is sometimes called a "fairy tale," and not entirely for joking purposes. A fairy tale gets a moral across using very simplified symbolism and easy reading, just like his book. But, I also like books that teach me new words, or ones that are just plain challenging, like Billy Budd, Sailor. Poe's works are able to be frightening yet wordy.

    However, the general public these days likes easier readings. If you're writing something you don't plan to publish, maybe writing it in a wordy fashion can be a sort of exercise for you. But if you want it published, make it a moderate or easy read.
     
  3. J. Blake
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    J. Blake Member

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    I was reading an Ian Fleming novel today and he had 'Expostulated' as a dialogue tag. Good lord.

    Short and simple works better every time.
     
  4. JessWrite
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    JessWrite Word Nerd & Proud! Contributor

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    Long and flowery writing can be okay at times, but awfully confusing. At least for me. I'm not one who likes having to read a single sentence three times to get the meaning of the words used.

    With that said, I like to write short, sweet, and simple. :)
     
  5. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I don't know! I really don't. Usually that seems the best way to go. Other times it isn't. There are so many awesome words... Its a tough call and I think it depends on what you're trying to do.
     
  6. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with him, but his advice doesn't mean that you don't use long words, only that you use them only when a shorter, simpler word won't do. Sometimes "old" or "worn" will do. Sometime you need "dilapidated." It all depends.
     
  7. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I believe in using the simplest word possible, even when using description, since reading comprehension levels are dropping like a rock. I also tend to lean towards the attitude of using the first word that comes to mind, even if it's a four letter word, and you can change it during your revision/editing process.

    But there's times where big words are necessary too. Once again, it just depends on what you're writing and your sense of feel for it.
     
  8. GHarrison
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    GHarrison Senior Member

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    Agreeing with G. Orwell on writing is usually a good idea. By the way I learned a new word today: Fabulist.
     
  9. Danvok
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    Danvok Senior Member

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    I agree with George Orwell. If there's a more economical word that'll do, relatively, the same thing then why over-complicate things?
     
  10. Shaun4
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    Shaun4 New Member

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    I agree for the most part, but you have to use the accurate word. Consider how the meaning changes when you sub in a shorter word:

    He was assassinated in his own home.
    He was killed in his own home.

    or:

    She was incredibly meticulous.
    She was very neat.

    In SOME cases, the small word strips away meaning and subtext the larger word provides. Mostly, though, Orwell's right.
     
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  11. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I was tempted to reply with the single word "absolutely", instead of "yes". But since I'm new here I was worried that people might not realise that I was joking.

    And in modern novels, the "absolutely" would often be "abso-<word I"d prefer not to use in my own writing>-lutely", and hence even longer.

    I'm not a skilled writer and am blowing hot air, but I think that writing needs variety to maintain interest. And word length is one way of introducing variety.
     
  12. Kaidonni
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    Kaidonni Member

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    George Orwell's statement is an absolute, and it is never wise to deal in absolutes. As DefinitelyMaybe says, variety is necessary in writing. Shaun also hits the nail on the head when he states that different words can lend different meanings to a sentence. You can't account for every reader, you can't please everyone. If someone has to pick up a dictionary to learn a new word, boohoo, life is all about learning - even indirectly. I can guarantee there will be people who don't even get the shorter simpler words you will have to use until they check them up in a dictionary.

    Shorter words aren't necessarily simpler, either. How many people here - without looking at a dictionary, printed or online - would know the meaning of 'copse' or 'coppice'? Nice, short words, and perfectly viable, but plenty of people will be scratching their heads - I was when I first came across them.
     
  13. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    I think you should use whatever word most accurately reflects what you're trying to convey - if you have two equally effective words then I agree that it would normally be best to use the most simple/easy to understand.
     
  14. ...
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    ... Member

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    Some words are simple to some and not to others. I wouldn't worry about it, you can even make words up if you like, just be you.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In general, yes, but with a small but important addendum:

    Never use a long word where a short one will do as well.

    If the long word is more expressive, by all means use it. But for it to be truly expressive, your reader needs to understand the nuances of the word that make it more expressive. Otherwise, communication has failed, and the onus for that is on you, the writer.

    Writing is communication. Never forget that. You transmit, the reader receives. Of course, if what you are trying to transmit is "I'm smarter than you, and you should turn an adoring face up toward my golden visage," by all means, drag out the pretentious verbiage. That is successful communication in its own right, and the reader will clearly see the arrogance you are broadcasting.
     
  16. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    These are my thoughts exactly.

    I feel I should point out that one of the main things that runs through Orwell's essays, particularly those on language, is a conscious effort to be as clear and precise as possible. To say exactly what you think and not have anyone misinterpret. Orwell himself was never fanatical about these rules, especially with his earlier stuff - he was just giving advice on political language.
     
  17. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm with those who emphasize accuracy. I don't believe one has to 'dumb down' their writing - "dumb" people don't read, so why write for them? Use the word that gets the idea across best. That doesn't mean show off your own immense vocabulary and it doesn't mean over-simplify - it means use the best word.
     
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  18. Pheonix
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    Pheonix A Singer of Space Operas and The Fourth Mod of RP Staff Contributor

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    I think of all the responses on here I agree with this the most.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I would say this is true in the majority of cases, as long as the larger word is truly appropriate. The operative phrase in Orwell's advice is "will do".
     
  20. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'll have to start using "dod" instead of "peevishness", then, and "orle" instead of "border". Or maybe length of the word isn't the issue. Never trust an absolute ;)
     
  21. ...
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    Orwell is speaking figuratively. It's not exactly an absolute.
     
  22. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would have no idea what you meant if you used those short words! :p
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ...not entirely... 'never' is almost never a good word to use when giving advice about creative writing...

    ...generally, yes... but that doesn't equal 'always'...

    ...neither... both have their places... it depends on what's been written and who's doing the writing... good writers can entrance me with either a shopping list, or a royal banquet menu...
     
  24. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Sort of - Writing is all about precision but not at the sacrifice of style. Trim the fat without cutting out the flavor. If a short word
    works better than a long one put it in - but vice versa works too - sometimes a short word or phrase isn't enough to clarify
    your scene.

    Flowery and verbose - I don't think those are actually word picks, I think they're more the results of heaping on
    too much spice i.e. modifers , adjectives, adverbs.

    If I was to write - Jim cut a wedge of pie.
    add some dash - Jim cut a wedge of pumpkin pie.
    overload - Drooling, Jim cut himself a gigantic wedge of pumpkin pie.
    You might say the third has more flavor - why not add it too the next
    line -
    Jim cut himself a wedge of pie.
    His wife's eyes narrowed as she crabbed, "You took half the pie, look at the sliver you
    left me."
     
  25. DanesDarkLand
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    DanesDarkLand Senior Member

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    I did have to verify that I knew the meanings of those words, just so that I would not be blowing smoke. I remember researching this method of forestry when I needed to know information on early bronze age industry. It was a method the British had to use quite extensively to avoid stripping their very valuable forestry resources bare. Copse is so similar in spelling to corpse yet its refers to a stand of trees.

    In other words, I do agree, in part, with Orwell, but not completely. As long as the words are easily recognizable in modern day language, there is no reason to prevent yourself from using slightly larger words versus smaller ones, unless the smaller one gives more clarity to the idea. I don't think its a good idea to get into the habit of having to consult a dictionary in order to read a novel though.
     

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