Bend It Like Orwell

Essay Rules from the Master

Eric Scheske
4 min readDec 21, 2022

You want to be a great essayist?

Then study the greats.

Especially Orwell.

Before he wrote 1984 or Animal Farm, he was an essayist. When Irving Howe set out to write essays, he studied Orwell. Orwell was the master. He demonstrated how it’s possible to be unobtrusively interesting line after line.

Which is the First Orwell Lesson:

Be interesting.

Flannery O’Connor taught that every word in a short story should have meaning. I’d submit the same applies to essays. Every line should move the reader along an interesting continuum.

Without ostentation.

The reader, Orwell taught, shouldn’t appreciate the prose. It should be like a clear window.

You need a great lede to get the reader to look through the window in the first place.

At this, Orwell was king:

“Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent.”

“Dickens is one of those writers who are well worth stealing.”

“Autobiography is only to be…



Eric Scheske

Former editor of Gilbert Mag and columnist for NC Register and Busted Halo. Freelance for many print pubs. Publishes here every Monday+. Paid Medium Member.