George Orwell, author of 1984, came up with six rules that helped him write well. He shared these rules in 1946 through his essay Politics and the English Language. These rules can be applied on the web as well. Here are the rules:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.

This can be much easier said than done. See, I just used one of the common figures of speech. Instead of “much easier said than done” I should have used something more creative and original. New phrases of speech, metaphors, and similes tend to be able to create larger emotional responses and help the reader to move out of apathy and connect with your words.

2) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

Especially on the web people are skimming and trying to find the information that they need as quickly as possible. They do not have time to stop and consider long words and look up what they mean. Readers want to be able to read it and go find more information. It is best to use short words when possible to increase the readability of your writing.

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

This rule also increases the readability of your text. Flowery, extra words hinder the reader in obtaining the information that they are trying to find.

4) Never use the passive voice when you can use the active.

Using passive voice is necessary for some essays and poems. However, the reader will be much more interested in what you have to say and connect with your writing if you can use the active voice. In the active voice things are happening. Active voice also tends to produce shorter text and sharper statements.

5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday equivalent.

The internet is often used for learning. Therefore, many of the articles and sites must convey technical information. To be of any use to the reader, the text needs to be readable to them. Scientific or foreign phrases that must be used should be defined. Minimize the use of any words or phrases that may confuse the reader.

However, last and most important, George Orwell said:

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

Every writer has a style they prefer. This style should come through. In some cases there is only a few ways that would properly convey the information. Do not go too far out of your way to follow the rules, or your style may be lost. However, keep the rules in mind.

Adam Jackson