Casting a clear light on good writing: the TORCH rule

Helicopter shining beam of light


Italian journalist and author Beppe Severgnini has come up with a rule for good writing. It’s the PORCO rule: Pensa, Organizza, Rigurgita, Correggi, Ometti (Ponder, Organise, Regurgitate, Correct, Omit).

I’m not mad about the PORCO rule because:

a) “Porco” is Italian for pig. Not the cute kind of pig you see in a film like Babe (for which the Italian would be maiale), more a filthy swine sort of pig. The Italian “vecchio porco” equates to “dirty old man”. ‘Nuff said.

b) Regurgitate = spewing up words all over the page or screen. Again, ’nuff said.

c) “PORCO” lacks affordance. That is, the word and its connotations don’t suggest what it’s for. Where’s the link between smelly swine, dirty old men and good writing? Or maybe I’m missing something?

d) Good writing is lean, concise and elegant. Not words you usually associate with pigs – even the cute ones. They tend to be flabby.

e) “Omitting” isn’t necessarily a good thing. Editing and excising, fine. But simply omitting can be a sin (as the Catholic Church and Labour Party leader Ed Milliband both know).

All of that said, here’s my TORCH rule to cast a clear light on good writing:

Think: about what you want to say. Marshall your ideas. Let them rest a bit.

Organise: your thoughts. Jot down a summary, your main headings. Or even just think them out in your head.

Restate: your (by now beautifully ordered) thoughts in written form.

Correct, Clarify and Clean up: Run a spell-check. Read through your text and clarify any words, phrases or sentences that might confuse your readers. Do a “find and replace” on things like double spaces between words (or after full stops!), spaces followed by a punctuation mark, etc.

Hone: sharpen, whittle and fine-tune your (preferably printed out, if you’re working on a computer) text to make it more incisive.

That’s it. Do you have any additional tips for clear and concise writing? Let us know in the comments!

Photo courtesy of Brian Digital

Other translation and writing posts you might like:

Oxford commas

The Gettysburg Address: lessons for writers (and translators!)

Smart quote marks for smart writing

By Marian Dougan

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