Every writer needs style, right? One way to develop fabulous style is to tap great resources. The Elements of Style is one of my all time favorite resources.
Thought I would share the following review, just in case you aren't acquainted with it. This review first appeared on the Coffeehouse for Writers blog.
The Elements of Style
By William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White
The Elements of Style is small enough to fit into a pocket or purse. Yet it is packed to the brim with great advice for writers. How did Strunk and White manage this feat? I’m not sure, but I’m glad they did.
The introduction contains E.B. White’s take on the background of how the book came about. While not an absolute must read portion of the book, I found his insight interesting as he points out the timeless advice within the book, and tells us how he became acquainted with Mr. Strunk.
Chapter One, entitled Elementary Rules of Usage, reminds us about the proper handling of things like possessives, commas, conjunctions, pronouns, and participial phrases, to name a few. For example, years ago I referred to this chapter to brush up on my semicolon use. Do you use it with an independent clause or a dependant clause? Sure enough, problem solved.
Composition is addressed in Chapter Two, with Elementary Principles of Composition. Here the authors tell us to “Choose a suitable design and hold to it.” They encourage us to organize our thoughts, transferring them in like manner for the reader to understand. Active voice and passive voice are discussed, as are tenses and tight writing. This chapter contains my favorite piece of advice, where they tell us:
“Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. ”
A Few Matters of Form highlight Chapter Three, with a discussion of colloquialisms, exclamations, margins, numerals, quotations and more. Chapter Four elaborates on commonly misused words and expressions, telling us, for instance, when to use allude and elude and other oft-confused words.
Chapter Five closes with An Approach to Style, and includes a handy list of reminders. Awkward adverbs and overstating a point are among the rest of the helpful principles addressed in the final pages.
I purchased this book for my children when they were in middle school. Little did I realize how appropriate it is for students and adults. This book is 100% user friendly and is proof that good things really do come in small packages. If my copy ever wears out, I’m buying a new one.
What resources are your must-haves?
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