George Orwell’s essay, Politics and the English Language, first published in 1946, talks about some “bad habits”, which have driven the English language in the wrong direction, that is, away from communicating ideas. In his essay he quotes five passages, each from a different author, which embody the faults he is talking about. He lists dying metaphors, operators, pretentious diction, and meaningless words as things to look out for in your own writing and the writing of others (593-595). He talks about political uses of the English language. Our language has become ugly and the ugliness impedes upon communication. Ugly uses of language have been reinforced and passed down in the population “even among people who should and do know better,” (598). Ugly language has been gaining ground in our population by a positive feedback mechanism.
In a simple positive feedback mechanism, (A) produces more of (B) which in turn produces more of (A). This is often called a chain reaction. Through this system, “bad habits” get passed on to the population and, without proper tools or care, are accepted and spread further. Orwell explains that language is a tool for communicating ideas (591). These “bad habits” spread through our language and dull the tools people need to communicate.
Any craftsman knows that you need the right tools to complete a project successfully. Similarly, people need the right language and usage to communicate in a positive way. How people write is often a problem because they don’t have the right tools, but a bigger problem occurs when a writer “is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything at all” (592). If a writer carries this mentality, why try to communicate in the first place? People need to have meaning in what they say.
Communication through writing can be positive if the writer takes his time and has meaning. On the other hand, writing can turn ugly if they don’t care about what words they use and rush through the writing process. The idea is that ugly writing impedes communication whereas positive writing allows for clear communication. Positive writing serves the purpose of communicating clearly and concisely. It allows for the flow of imagery from the writer to the reader. In contrast, ugly writing does something else. It can be crowded with meaningless phrases and fillers. People need to prevent bad habits from spreading by consciously guarding against them.
As ugly language is used in society, by written word or mouth, it can spread through the population like a virus. Ugly writing is only ugly in the sense that communication is hindered to some extent. I’m not trying to say that the ideas behind the writing are negative or bad, although they certainly can be. The intensity to which communication is hindered varies and can be negative for the reader’s understanding. There are many ways in which writers hinder communication.
In his essay, Orwell gives examples of commonly used...