Lessons from a Writer

As speakers, we can hone our overall communication skills by heeding the advice of masters of the written word. For example, note the rules for clarity laid down by George Orwell in his classic essay “Politics and the English Language”:

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence he writes will ask himself at least four questions, thus:  What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?”

For the speaker, Orwell’s recommendations suggest:

  1. A strong Point of View
  2. Concrete, specific language versus abstract
  3. Anecdotes, analogies and quotes to illustrate key points
  4. An attention-getting opener and strong conclusion for impact

And finally, brevity. It is a rare audience that will fault you for building your case in thirty minutes instead of one hour.

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