Custom stylesheet for George Orwell essay archive

There’s an archive of George Orwell’s essays in English and Russian language at http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays. I found the archive last week when searching for a full-text version of Politics and the English Language (1946) to re-read, which contains Orwell’s famous six rules for clear writing. These rules are touchstones for writers or editors and feature in the introduction to The Economist’s style guide.

I found the essays difficult to read on a desktop browser due to the site’s typography:

  • Long line lengths spanning the full width of the browser
  • Justified paragraphs rather than left-aligned (ragged right)
  • Tight leading
  • A serif font

When reading long-form articles online I prefer large sans-serif body text, constrained line lengths and leading between 1.3 and 1.5 ems. To improve the reading experience of the essays I made a custom stylesheet with new typography intended for use with the Stylish browser extension. I’ve shared the stylesheet via userstyles.org and GitHub.

Before

Politics and the English Language - before custom styles

Credit: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit – click image to view a larger version.

After

Politics and the English Language - after custom styles

Credit: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit with custom stylesheet – click image to view a larger version.

Install via userstyles.org directory

  1. Add the Stylish extension to your browser. The extension is available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Opera.
  2. Visit https://userstyles.org/styles/141074/.
  3. Select Install with Stylish.
  4. View any essay under http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/.
  5. The Stylish extension should prompt you that styles are available for the current site. Accept the prompt and add the styles.

Install manually

In Chrome the Stylish extension may not reliably prompt you that styles are available for the current site. Manually add the stylesheet as follows:

  1. Click the browser extension icon and select Create new style.
  2. Give the style a name.
  3. In stylish.css copy all of the styles that are inside the @-moz-document and url-prefix rules.
  4. Paste the styles in the Code 1 text field.
  5. In the Applies to settings choose URLs starting with from the drop-down menu.
  6. Enter http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/ in the text field.
  7. Select the Save button.