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Making Writing Simple


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Introduction to the essay

  • Publication: The essay ‘Making Writing Simple’ was originally published in ‘Delight’ in 1949. ‘Delight’ is the collection of personal short essays which depicts joys and fun of daily life in a simple way.

  • Form: It is a personal short essay

  • Theme: The main theme of the essay is importance of writing in simple language.

  • Narrative Technique: In the essay ‘Making Writing Simple’ J. B. Priestley uses first person narrative technique.

  • Message of the essay: This essay tells us to use simple and easy to understand language instead of complicated language along with jargons , and proves to us how writing in simple language can win everyone’s heart.

  • Characters in details: There are two characters in the story-a youngish critic and the author.


♦subtle-fine, ♦gulf-bay, ♦password-key, ♦antics-amusing behaviour, ♦cardinals-priest of high rank, ♦solemnity-seriousness, ♦summoned-called for, ♦consultation-discussion, ♦distinct-different in nature, ♦hacks-writers of low quality work, ♦mob-crowd, ♦hence-as a consequence, ♦vogue-particular time, ♦twisted-unusual and strange, ♦tormented-causing physical or mental pain, ♦pose-show off, ♦arrogance-attitude of superiority, ♦thicket of briers-a dense group of thorny bushes, ♦Mass Age-involving a large number of people, ♦introversion-being shy and isolated,♦ fallacy-invalid, ♦chaps-men, ♦pubs-bars, ♦pinch-a very small amount, ♦profound-strong, ♦obvious-clear, ♦knotty-complicated, ♦ciphers-a symbolic way of writing, ♦The Times-daily national newspaper, ♦persuasive-convincing, ♦triumphs-victory, ♦fuss-excitement, ♦backed-supported, ♦evidence-proof, ♦honey in the rock-something more beautiful than stars and heaven itself


In the essay “Making Writing Simple”, Priestley focusses upon the positive effects of writing in simple language and emphasizes that he has toiled and sweated throughout his life to make his writing simple. He believed that writings needed to be simple that can appeal both common and scholarly readers.

Priestley recalls how he was attracted to a young man’s personality, but not the values he stood for. After talking for a long time the youngish critic  wanted to know the reason of his writing being much simpler than his verbal communication. Priestley expresses his belief that literature needn’t be twisted, tormented and esoteric, rather it should be for the commoners and he aimed to take it so simple that it could be read in bar-parlours; he really did it. He believed in working hard to keep it simple, so that it would be easier for the reader to understand. He doesn’t take literature as a cerebral activity for which the reader has to struggle.  He said that, “if any man who thinks the kind of simplicity I attempt is easy he should try it for himself”.

As they didn’t belong to the same generation, a wide gap took place between the two. The young man grew up in an age, where he believed literature had to be complex and hard to understand. He believed that writings should not be simple, but should be full of hidden meanings and should make the reader  toil and sweat to understand it. In his generation writing seemed to be a password for the secret society of the writers  who did not share anything with the crowd. They became sincere in believing that the true artist must hide from the crowd behind a thicket of briers as they were afraid of the crowd.

   However J.B. Priestley belonged to the 19th century and most of his writings were written just before 1914.He believed that keeping things simple had its advantages and nothing could be a glass wall between the common people and him. So, he had been trying to make his writing simple for many years.

   Once he was asked to pay a birthday tribute to C. G. Jung on air in thirteen and a half minutes . At that time his friend  and the psychologist  said it could not be done, but Priestley accepted to do it . He was successful to accomplish  it in a fine manner to make everyone surprised, and  he felt as if he found honey in the rock.


Questions along with Answers

1.What did Priestley regard as the great critical fallacy of his time?

Ans: During  Priestley’s time art was isolated from the common people .Priestley regarded it as the great critical fallacy .

2.”I have kept this aim in view throughout years of hard work”-What aim is referred to here?

Ans: “I have kept this aim in view throughout years of hard work”-The aim of writing so simple to reach common people is referred to here.

3.Which difficult task was asked to perform by Priestley? Who said that it could be undone?

Ans: Priestley was asked to pay birthday tribute to C.G. Jung. He had been given thirteen -and-a-half minutes to explain C.G.Jung in such a way that common people could understand. This difficult task was asked to be performed by Priestley.

Priestley’s friends and the psychologists said that it could be undone.

4.Who was C.G.Jung?

Ans: C.G.Jung was a swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst.

5.What ambition did the narrator have regarding writing?

Ans: Regarding writing the narrator had an ambition of making his writing simple and easy to understand so that he could read a pinch aloud in bar parlour.

6.Name two notable plays of J.B. Priestley.

Ans: The two notable plays of J.B. Priestley are Dangerous Corner, and Bright Day.

7.“I don’t understand you”–Who said to whom? What did the speaker not understand?

Ans: “I don’t understand you”–the young critic said this to the narrator.

The speaker did not understand why the narrator’s writing seemed to be too simple whereas his talk was so much more complicated and subtle than his writing.

8.What was regarded as virtue  by Priestley?

Ans: Making writing simple was regarded as virtue  by Priestley.

9.Who was a good writer according to the youngish critic?

Ans: According to the youngish critic a good writer was one who made his readers toil and sweat.

10.Which were the most impressionable years for the narrator?

Ans: The most impressionable years for the narrator were those years which were just before 1914.

11.“I found like a honey in the rock, a taste of delight”––What is meant by the phrase “honey in the rock”? What does this phrase symbolize? 

Ans: The phrase “honey in the rock” means something more beautiful than stars and heaven.

This phrase symbolizes abundance and prosperity. It represents sweetness of the author’s feelings.

12.When did the narrator find ‘honey in the rock’?

Ans: When the author paid birthday tribute to C.G.Jung in thirteen-and-a-half minutes, backed by his first class evidence, he found honey in the rock.

Textual Grammar

Do as directed:

a)But I’ve spent year to make my writing simple. (Change to past perfect continuous tense)

Ans: But I’d been spending year to make my writing simple.

b)The psychologists said it could not be done. (Rewrite without using not)

Ans: The psychologists said it could  be undone.

c)They grew up in revolt against the Mass Communication antics of their age.( Change to present continuous tense)

Ans: They are growing up in revolt against the Mass Communication antics of their age.

d)Writing is hard to understand is like a password.( Replace the underlined word with a group verb)

Ans: Writing is hard to  catch on is like a password.

e)Your talk is so much more complicated ––subtle than your writing.(Rewrite using relative clause)

Ans: You talk which is so much more complicated subtle than your writing.

f)They grew up terrified of the crowd.( Replace the underlined word with a single verb)

Ans: They progressed terrified of the crowd.

g)I am not impressed by this view of literature.(Change the voice)

Ans: This view of literature does not impress me.

h)I aim at simplicity and want to write something.( Rewrite using participle)

Ans: Aiming at simplicity I want to write something.

i) He said, ‘I don’t understand you. Your talk is much more complicated.’ (Change the mode of narration)

Ans: He said to him (the narrator) that he doesn’t understand him. He further said that his talk was much more complicated.

j) It was a tough little task but when I had come to the end of it, I found, like honey in the rock, a taste of
delight. (Split into simple sentences)

Ans: It was a tough little task. I had come to the end of it. Then I found, like honey in the rock, a taste of

k) I do not display my goods to catch their eye. (Change the voice)

Ans: My goods are not displayed to catch their eye.


1. Answer each of the following questions in a complete sentence:

a)“It was a tough little task but I had”––Which task was called ‘a tough little task’?

b)What do you mean by  the term ‘Mass Communication Antics’?

c) Why does the young critic not understand Priestley?
d) What are ciphers?
e) What does Priestley want to highlight in his essay ‘Making Writing Simple’?
f) What does the act of hiding behind the thicket of briers symbolically stand for?

2.Answer each of the following questions in about 80 words:

a)Discuss Priestley’s views  about literature and its style as compared to the literary style of his young friend.

b)How does Priestley define art? What does Priestley aim at? How does Priestley feel that he has been

c)“There was now revealed to us the gulf between his generation and mine”– –Describe the difference between his generation and the narrator’s generation.

d)How did the narrator make his writing simple? Why did he do it?

e)How did Priestley criticize the literary stereo types of restricting literature to be a certain section of people in the society?

f)What is called “this habit of simplification”? How did it triumph?

g)“I am not afraid of the crowd. And art to me is not synonymous with introversion”–– How was the art to the narrator? Why was he not afraid of the crowd?

h)“What the fuss was about !”––– What do you mean by “fuss”? What comments did the narrator’s friend and the psychologist have regarding the fuss?

i)How does the author establish the virtues of writing plain and simple English through a point of comparison
and citing examples?

j)What were the existing norms of writing?

k) How does Priestley distinguish between him and young critic friend’s generation?

l)What could not be done according to Priestley’s friends and psychologists?

m)”There was now revealed to us the gulf between his generation and mine”.-Briefly comment on the ‘gulf’ mentioned by Priestley in his essay ‘Making Writing Simple’.