Archive: January 29th, 2005

Best. News story. Ever.

In his seminal 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell outlined some simple guidelines for writing. These include:

"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."

Whenever I’m writing, I try to bear this advice in mind. Clearly, someone who writes for Ananova has been similarly influenced.

The story entitled "Man peed way out of avalanche" is a superb example of the power of economy in the use of English. It begins by using the inverse pyramid rule of journalism to convey a summary of the story in one sentence:

"A Slovak man trapped in his car under an avalanche freed himself by drinking 60 bottles of beer and urinating on the snow to melt it."

My favourite sentence appears halfway through the story:

"He had 60 half-litre bottles of beer in his car as he was going on holiday, and after cracking one open to think about the problem he realised he could urinate on the snow to melt it, local media reported."

In the past, I have waxed lyrical on Joyce’s command of the English language. I’m sorry, James. I think Ananova’s got you beat.

For full effect, read the story out loud.

Without laughing.