Instructional design advice from Orwell

My colleague Paul Drexler, a man of many many talents, has been working on improving some eLearning courses and shared some sage advice from Orwell via e-mail.

“I’ve been struggling to organize my thoughts on making these courses better.  This morning an essay came to me which brilliantly describes and sums up some of these thoughts.  I refer to Politics and the English Languagean essay by George Orwell, author of Animal Farm and 1984.  I read this my college Freshman year and it made a deep and lasting impression.  If we followed Orwell’s suggestions alone we would greatly improve our courses.”

If you want just  the take away points, read Orwell’s summary below:

  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.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  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.