With world-renowned novels such as 1984 and Animal Farm, it’ll come as little surprise to learn that George Orwell was a damn good writer.
What might come as a surprise is learning that Orwell would’ve been a damn good copywriter, too.
In fact, he would’ve probably made a better copywriter than you.
How do we know? Well, in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language (we promise it’s more interesting than it sounds), Orwell set out a series of rules to overcome "ugly and inaccurate" written English.
Fast-forward 25 years and these rules, albeit unintentionally, champion the core elements of well-crafted search-engine-friendly content.
So much so that we’re pretty confident the 21st-century Orwell would be topping the Google rankings, engaging customers and driving conversions left, right and centre. Because being an all-time best-selling author just isn’t enough for some people...
“Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”
Orwell’s first rule addresses originality. Avoid the use of tiresome and uninspired literary devices and you’ll be good as gold - oops.
Of course, originality in content brings a whole host of advantages. Most notably, it helps you to define your brand through the use of characteristic phrasing, tone and vocabulary that’s unmistakably you. Ditch the everyday figures of speech in favour of unique, on-brand expression.
Secondly, unique turns of phrase ensure more memorable content - something any content writer should aspire to. Content we’ve all read a thousand times before inevitably loses its impact, lost in a sea of other information we’ve consumed throughout the day.
Unique phrasing, then, enables a writer to tear away from the ignorant masses and make a firm imprint on readers’ minds - meaning readers are more likely to take the desired action as a result.
“Never use a long word where a short word will do.”
Writers love showcasing how clever they can be. The most common way of doing this? Long words and complicated vocabulary.
If this is you, get ready for a truth bomb: this doesn’t make you a good writer. In fact, quite the opposite: writing that’s hard to understand is, by definition, bad writing.
Orwell understood that accessing content shouldn’t be a chore to the average Joe. Remember: the average reading age in the UK is just 9 years old.
So, stick to simple vocabulary to ensure the value of your content isn’t lost on any of your audience, regardless of their ability or background. Good copy is accessible and easy to read, and being cautious of your vocabulary choices can help you avoid any unnecessary complications.
“If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.”
Sticking on the topic of readability, Orwell wasn’t only a fan of simplicity - he was a fan of keeping it brief, too.
Keep things short and sweet wherever possible to maximise the value of each piece you create. Strike the perfect balance between in-depth topic exploration and compact presentation by stripping any unnecessary fluff and filler - a rigorous self-edit should do the job here.
Be wary of paragraph lengths, too. Short, snappy sentences deserve short, snappy paragraphs, so don’t be afraid to get straight to the point.
Of course, this all amounts to improving the readability of your content further still. Just ensure you’re never sacrificing informational value or grammatical coherence in the process - there’s far more skill involved than simply cutting out words from the end of your -.
“Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.”
Content marketing provides value to readers by offering information, insight and advice on a broad range of subjects.
With this in mind, avoiding technical jargon is key - particularly if you aren’t addressing an informed niche audience.
While B2B content perhaps gives you more leeway to stray into specialist language, never assume knowledge when creating B2C content. You wouldn’t start a swimming lesson in the deep end, so why throw your audience into the pool without armbands?
Instead, take the time to explain phrases, ideas and concepts in layman’s terms to make sure no value is missed.
“Break any of these rules rather than say something barbarous.”
Orwell’s final rule is our favourite of the bunch.
Rules are made to be broken, and Orwell would, quite rightly, rather you throw out the rulebook than create lower-quality content that ticks the previous boxes. That’s because he recognised that time, place and circumstance play a crucial role in quality content creation - one rule will never fit all.
How do you know when it’s time to unleash your inner rebel? It’s all about knowing your brand and your audience, and using this knowledge to inspire your action.
Is your audience clued up on your topic? Use that specialist jargon. Are you creating white papers or essays? Loosen up on those sentence lengths and vocab choices.
Audience should always dictate your approach - never the other way around. Of course, this requires a thorough understanding of who they are - their habits, preferences and behaviours - so be sure to take a deep dive into your audience profile with research, personas and more.
Finding your inner Orwell doesn’t have to mean writing the next dystopian classic. By simply championing the fundamentals of copywriting and content marketing best practices, you’ll find yourself creating top-class content Big Brother would be proud to censor.
For a helping hand along the way, why not get in touch with the professionals? Get in touch with Paragraft today to learn more.