Is there an equivalent for George Orwells's style guide in your language?
Thread poster: Wolfgang Vogt

Wolfgang Vogt  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
English to German
+ ...
Jan 3, 2013

In a discussion about split infinitives (Language Log and
Economist) I just came across George Orwell's 6 rules for effective writing in English. Now I was wondering if something similar existed in other languages as well.
Especially the first rule called my attention, as it seems to be quite the other way round in some German newspapers (I have in mind one particular magazine actually).

1 Never use a Metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2 Never use a long word where a short one will do (see Short words).
3 If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out (see Unnecessary words).
4 Never use the Passive where you can use the active.
5 Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a Jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6 Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous (see Iconoclasm).

(source: Economist)

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neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:53
Spanish to English
+ ...
Ya no va a misa Jan 3, 2013

Although I too am a great admirer of Mr Blair (Eric Arthur, not the vile Tony), I think we should bear in mind that his writings were in a context and era other than our own. To all intents and purposes, the split infinitive debate (for example) ended long ago, and IMHO his pronouncements can nowadays be considered (like Johnny Depp's Pirate Code) more as guidelines than hard and fast rules to be followed.

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LilianNekipelov  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 15:53
Russian to English
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Hi. I don't know if a similar manual exists in any other language, but Jan 3, 2013

you have just reminded me how great this one is. Thank you.

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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:53
Chinese to English
Translators: writers or imitators Jan 3, 2013

I like Orwell's rules a lot, but I break rule 1 all the time. The reason is that I'm not writing for myself, I'm writing for clients, and my method is to imitate. So I copy similes and metaphors like there's no tomorrow. The more relevant Google hits I can get for my choice of words, the happier I am.

So I'm conflicted about rule 1. Rules 3 & 5, however, are golden. When I have the time on a project, I devote entire editing rounds to these rules.

Sorry, those musings weren't really on topic. To respond to the question:

I've never seen anything like this in Chinese. There is a school of thought here that says that a writer's skill is shown by their *correct* usage of set phrases. There are thousands of these set phrases, mostly coming from classical Chinese, and kids are forced to learn them in school and then use them in essays.

This theory is plainly wrong. A few minutes reading really good Chinese writers will reveal that they don't use these set phrases very much. Mo Yan doesn't use them much, for example. But I don't think I've seen anyone dare stand up against the orthodoxy and say, no, we want original writing! Quite the contrary: a friend of mine had her 7-year old son come home in tears because his lovely essay been marked down for including the phrase "the grass was so tall a tiger could have hidden in it." Apparently, that's not one of the approved set phrases.

[Edited at 2013-01-03 14:10 GMT]

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Pierret Adrien  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:53
Chinese to French
+ ...
The China Paradox Jan 4, 2013

Well, that's the whole China paradox, the country has lived for centuries under conformism and unquestioned respect of the ancestors' parole (including imitating ancient writings as a discipline) as the supreme rule for an ideal society, and now discovering that the outside world goes in the exact opposite direction.

Funniest is, most Chinese companies nowadays promote "innovation" in words without making the slightest progress towards it and without having the first clue on how to achieve it. Why then do they promote it, if they fail to understand it? Because the West says so.

[Edited at 2013-01-04 10:04 GMT]

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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:53
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Er.... Jan 4, 2013

Shouldn't that be

"Is there an equivalent in your language for George Orwells's style guide?"


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