George Orwell was, there can be no argument, a head-noddingly good writer, and not only of fiction- his general thinking about his work was pretty special. One of the more famous essays of his is Politics and the English language (1946) which lays out his rules for writing, in order to express your ideas in the clearest way possible.
Now, even though George’s rules were meant to make the meaning as clear as possible, and weren’t intended to cover literary writing, I still find them good principles on which to base my work. Generally, there’s a meaning behind whatever-it-is-I’m-writing and, in some way, that meaning needs to be expressed. Having become disgusted with the horrific array of clichéd, self-important, pseudo-intellectual, self-congratulatory arse-wash that passes for writing these days, it was an amazing experience to return to Keep the aspidistra flying and realise that not all prose needs to be so godawful. George Orwell knew how to turn a phrase, and he knew what he was writing about. Anyone who’s had a conversation with me about what I value in literary writing (and to everyone who has- I’m sorry) knows that what I look for most is a union of form and content. Your narrative needs to be in dialogue with the form in which it’s written, and the one needs to inform the other. If it doesn’t, then it’s just wasting my time.
Which brings me, in a vague, waffling way, to this poster. While working at Phil Abel’s treasure trove of printing, Hand & Eye, we talked about a great many things, one of which was a respect for good writing. I happened to mention that I had George Orwell’s rules of writing pinned to my wall, and we thought it’d be a great idea to make a poster of them on the proofing press. A little typesetting later, and it was done. Thanks, Phil.
For those of an interested bent, it was set in Grot and Bembo fonts of varying sizes and is, above all, lovely- the photo doesn’t do it justice. They’re both beautiful typefaces and, of course, we now have a great marriage of form and content- elegant rules about clear writing, written clearly and elegantly. Eyethankyew.