Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

George Orwell: 12 blogging tips

According to George Orwell, a scrupulous blogger, in every sentence they write, should ask if their words and images attain their site’s conversion goals. If not, then perhaps there are some instances of Spurgeon-esque church-speak and/or kitschy imagery and cliches getting in your reader’s way.

For those of use who graduated high school before 1984, we remember with both eager anticipation and fearful foresight the George Orwell classic of the said year. A book that not one of my friends, nor I, could put down once started in part due to Orwell’s crisp, concise and to-the-point power-writing on such an important and always relevant topic. A style of writing nicely summed up by an article on WritingClasses.com entitled ‘George Orwell: 12 Writing Tips.’

The above article, quoting from essay ‘Politics and the English Language,’ reformats Orwell’s points in a way that should speak to bloggers and church webmasters alike:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

  • What am I trying to say?
  • What words will express it?
  • What image or idiom will make it clearer?
  • Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And he will probably ask himself two more:

  • Could I put it more shortly?
  • Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly?

But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in.

Similarly, for those of you providing compelling content for your church, charity and/or lay ministry, ask yourselves this:

  • What is my organization trying to say?
  • What are the shortest number of words we can use to express this message?
  • Are there any images, either in metaphor or media that will speak 1000 words?
  • Is this picture I’m trying to paint relevant and fresh enough to meet our site’s conversion goals?

Not sure? No problem, in the same document Orwell also leaves us with some rules we can employ to provide more compelling content on our blogs, websites and emails:

  • Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  • Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  • If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  • Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  • Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  • Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.

If this is still all unclear to you, then allow me to redirect your attention to the following action items, in order:

  1. consider the conversion goals of your website – what are you trying to get the reader to do when done reading your stuff?
  2. knock-off the church speak – speaking in TBN-ish platitudes may preach to the choir, but may also be painting an irrelevant and confusing pictures to potential congregants.

If all else fails, just remember this tried and true adage: “You’re not Spurgeon, quit trying to write like him.

Oh and finally, a big hat top to Kevin Pierpont who turned me onto these tips on his blog. Yes folks, it pays to aggregate!