George Orwell’s Writing Advice

Photo: Branch of the National Union of Journalists  Source for Photo

Eric Arthur Blair was born in 1903 in Motihari, British India. He is better known by his pen name “George Orwell”. Eric was the middle child, between his sisters Avril and Marjorie. His grandparents were wealthy absent plantation owners of Jamaican plantations; his grandmother being the daughter of the Earl of Westmoreland. His grandfather was a member of the clergy. Their wealth did not last and they descended into the lower middle class. His father Richard Blair worked in the Indian Civil Service. His mother Ida (Limouzin) Blair was of French birth, the daughter of a French businessman.

The family, sans father, relocated in 1904 to Oxfordshire, England, where Eric met Jacintha Laura May Buddicomm and developed a love of writing. A student at St. Cyprian School, Eric was later tutored in French by Aldous Huxley. He attended Eton as a King’s Scholar. His schooling ended when he was unable to get high enough test scores to obtain further scholarships.

Blair became an imperial policeman in Burma, later returning to London. In 1929 in Paris, he fell so ill he went to Hopital Cochin, where the trainees worked. It inspired him to write “How the Poor Die”. He took up a teaching career in England and spent time investigating the terrible conditions of the poor. A staunch opponent of Fascism, Orwell fought in the Spanish Civil War, narrowly escaping with his life and wife.

His wife Eileen would later work at the Ministry of Information in the Department of Censorship during World War 2. Blair was deemed unfit for military service, but joined the Home Guard. In 1944, they adopted a son they named Richard Horatio Blair. Although he had many essays published before, Orwell did not realize fame until 1945 with the publication of “Animal Farm”. It was in this same year his wife died from a reaction to anesthesia. His best known work, “1984”, was published in 1949. In that same year, he married Sonia Brownell. He died in 1950.

Here are his tips:

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  1. What am I trying to say?
  2. What words will express it?
  3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  1. Could I put it more shortly?
  2. Have I said anything unavoidably ugly?”

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