Posts Tagged ‘The Elements of Style’

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition Sale-$9.95!

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition

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Contains rules of grammar phrased as direct orders and provides the principal requirements of plain English style. Concentrates on fundamentals: the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. Softcover. DLC: English language–Style.

  • Amazon Sales Rank: #870 in Books
  • Published on: 1999-08-02
  • Original language: English
  • Number of items: 1
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 105 pages


Essential Writer’s Tool.5
When I write a book I use only a handful of reference tools: dictionary, thesaurus, Gregg’s Reference Handbook, Writers Market, and the Elements of Style. Strunk and White is a wonderfully-written, extraordinarily concise tool that pays homage to classic high-end English. It takes language insight to make this prediction in 1979: “By the time this paragraph makes print, uptight… rap, dude, vibes, copout, and funky will be the words of yesteryear.” The book begins with eleven “Elementary Rules of Usage,” and then continues with eleven more “Elementary Rules of Composition,” and eleven “Matters of Form.” Each is presented as a brief statement followed by another sentence or two of explanation and a few clarifying examples. This amazing compilation fills only thirty-eight pages, yet covers ninety percent of good writing fundamentals. My favorite section is Chapter IV, a twenty-seven-page, alphabetical listing of commonly misused words and expressions. Here’s a trade secret: when my manuscript is “done,” I then turn to this chapter and use my word processor’s Find function to study every instance of all these problematic words and phrases. I never fail to find errors this way. Many great writers are so only because they’ve learned to make use of the best available tools. The end of the book contains an essay on “An Approach to Style” with a list of twenty-one “Reminders.” Those who fight the apparently-natural tendency to go against these recommendations succeed as writers. Those who don’t, fail. It’s that simple. The single drawback of The Elements of Style is that it’s too concise; it does not stand alone as an all-encompassing tutorial or reference guide. Many readers will seek other sources for more in-depth explanation of style elements. Despite that, it easily replaces ten pounds of other reference material. –Christopher Bonn Jonnes, author of Wake Up Dead.

As the ‘rules’ in this iconic book take up only 14 pages, it continually amazes me how often I can find the answer to a grammar or punctuation guestion within those pages. It doesn’t cover everything, and some of the ‘rules’ are of course changing with the passage of time - but if a wannabe writer can’t afford a whole bookcase of tomes on How to Write, then this is the one he or she should buy.
Beyond those 14 pithy pages, however, are another 100 or so that extend the value of the book immeasurably: Principles of Composition, Commonly Misused Words, and perhaps the most valuable: An Approach to Style, which gives excellent advice along the lines of Do not overwrite, Avoid qualifiers, Don’t over-explain, Avoid adverbs, Avoid dialect, Don’t inject opinion, and tons of others.
When all’s said and done, however, one of the very best parts is a wonderful essay by the inimitable EB White himself - the Introduction, which serves as a perfect example of all that the rest of the small book preaches: write concisely, clearly, and well, and say something worthwhile.
Other books for writers to consider: Bird by Bird, On Writing, and Writing Down the Bones.

While skimming through Stephen King’s book ON WRITING, he highly recommended THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE. Taking his advice I searched for a copy and found one in a free bin–of all places! I looked at it and decided that it was so much better than any other textbook that I had seen that I decided to WRITE IT. Three pages a day for a month or so. It’s a very short book, only about 80 pages or so. You learn everything from words that are often spelled wrong, to punctuation, to style, etc. Very blunt and to the point. No exercises in here, problems 1 - 10 all. Nope, you just read this book and enjoy it. Why, there’s actually a little humor in it at times, which is pretty good for a textbook. Now I’ve heard some people say that this book is bad because it is saying to follow all these rules and don’t stray from them. I think they got it all wrong. This book is essentially saying this: you can’t blaze new trails in the English language without having a solid foundation in the basics first! This goes for ANYTHING. You don’t suddenly set off an a 200 mile trek, you slowly work up to it, starting from the basics. After you have mastered the basics, then you can break free. One thing that this book continually points out is that it is OFTEN A MATTER OF EAR. Meaning that if you are experienced enough, you will know whether to stick to the traditional or whether to be liberal when phrasing something, for example. By far this is the most talked-about textbook that I’ve seen and the most valuable.