After the Deadline

George Orwell and After the Deadline

Posted in Talking to myself by rsmudge on December 16, 2009

Ok, I have to admit something.  George Orwell does not use After the Deadline.  But, if he were alive now, I bet he would.

In his essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell defines the following rules for clear writing:

  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.

Did you know After the Deadline can help you with these rules?  Here is how:

Rule 1: Avoid clichés

You should avoid clichés in your writing.  After the Deadline flags over 650 worn out phrases.  These phrases lose their power because we’re so used to seeing them.

Rule 2: Use Simple Words

After the Deadline helps you replace complex expressions with simple everyday words.  Examples include use instead of utilize, set up over establish, and equal over equivalent.

Rule 3: Avoid Redundant Expressions

A common poor writing habit is using phrases with extra words that add nothing to the meaning.  After the Deadline flags these so you can remove them.  Examples include destroy over totally destroy, now instead of right now, and written over written down.

Rule 4: Avoid Passive Voice

Like a good copy editor, After the Deadline uses its virtual pen to find passive voice and bring it to your attention.  It’s up to you if you want to revise it or not.  In most cases you will make your writing much clearer.

Rule 5: Avoid Jargon

This is a hard one as each field has its own jargon.  After the Deadline flags some foreign phrases and jargon words.  It’s up to you to try to find the right words depending on your audience.

Rule 6: Remember, rules are meant to be broken

Rules are great but they do not cover every situation.  To help, After the Deadline uses a statistical language model to filter poor suggestions.

This is a repost from the old-AtD blog. If this topic interests you visit http://www.afterthedeadline.com where you can download After the Deadline for WordPress or learn how to add it to an application.

4 Responses

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  1. Joly MacFie said, on December 18, 2009 at 12:29 am

    > Never us a long word ??
    :)

    • rsmudge said, on December 18, 2009 at 12:49 am

      I deserve that :) The misused word detection is based on a fixed set of words you might mistake for eachother. us and use isn’t in there :) Although maybe in the future it will be (:

  2. Leif Andersen said, on January 7, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

    So follow these rules until you you believe it necessary, nice.

    Still, I doubt Orwell would use AtD, because of two things:
    1. He hates technology, and believed very strongly in actual books.
    2. You can’t actually get the software that makes AtD work, but only an interface, and you still need to sign up for an API key, giving Automattic complete control. Although I’m not complaining, too much, I would imagine that he would think of that as a ‘big brother’ thing to due. (Yes, I still use cliche from time to time, I also use long words when I deem it necessary).

    • rsmudge said, on January 7, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      Hi Leif,
      Maybe you’re correct about George Orwell. I’m a bit old school myself and tend to avoid a lot of gadgets. However, the After the Deadline software is available. http://open.afterthedeadline.com. You can download the source code to the back-end service (in a ready to run package) AND I also provide the data files to train the AtD models.

      — Raphael


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