The Elements of Style
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Elements of Style

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  39,908 ratings  ·  1,979 reviews
This style manual offers practical advice on improving writing skills. Throughout the emphasis is on promoting a plain English style. This little book can help your students communicate more effectively by showing them how to enliven their sentences. +
Hardcover, 105 pages
Published August 24th 1999 by Longman Publishing Group (first published 1918)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee1984 by George OrwellHarry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. RowlingThe Diary of a Young Girl by Anne FrankAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Books That Everyone Should Read At Least Once
299th out of 11,809 books — 57,220 voters
On Writing by Stephen KingThe Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.Bird by Bird by Anne LamottWriting Down the Bones by Natalie GoldbergEats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Best Books on Writing
2nd out of 471 books — 749 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Patricia
This book is good for the following things:

1. Propping up a short table leg

2. Lining a bird cage

3. Building a fire

4. Using as a coaster for cold drinks



I devoted some of my grammar thesis to criticizing this book, and it was time well spent.


Geoff Nunberg may have said it best: "The weird thing is to see rules like these passed down as traditional linguistic wisdom. Take that edict that you ought to say "10 persons" rather than "10 people." You can still find it in the recent editions of Strunk...more
Corey
I am well aware that this book is held in very high regard by teachers, professors, and authors. My issue is not so much with the content of the book but with the fact that one must already have some background in grammar to understand the concepts Strunk is communicating.

For example, without a prior understanding of grammar, the following sentence would be meaningless to a reader: "Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition, nouns in apposition, adjectives, and adjective...more
Kenny
Oct 14, 2007 Kenny rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who writes.
Shelves: writing-craft
The gold standard. No more need be said than to quote Mr. Strunk's thoughts under the headline "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 reader make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

And every word of Mr....more
Patrick Gibson
Jul 18, 2009 Patrick Gibson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Patrick by: some teacher along the way
Shelves: nerdboy
I remember, my Freshman year, sitting in the Music Building lounge waiting for my next class when Maryanne came crashing in, with an appropriate amount of chaos, announcing to all “Oh crap, I can’t find my Strunk and White.” Everyone else in the room apparently knew what she was talking about, but I sat with a blank stare. A few weeks latter my required English 101 professor insisted we hit the bookstore and buy ‘The Elements of Style.’ We were to treat it like the Holy Grail of grammar, carry i...more
David
In her charming essay, "Insert a Carrot", Anne Fadiman describes a trait shared by everyone in her family - a heightened sensitivity to the flaws in other people's writing. The Fadimans all belong to that tribe whose members cannot read without simultaneously copy-editing. When dining out, they amuse each other by pointing out typos on the menu. It might seem obnoxious, but really they just can't help it. If you're blessed with the copy-editing gene you can't just switch it off.

I have the same...more
Blake
Had I read this a year ago, happily under the spell of nazism, I might have filled this little review with the kind of gleaming praise and happy diligence of the awakened; however, in the past year I was compelled to take up a few contemporary grammar and style guides and subsequently have developed a sore throat around these pills. I spit them out.

My grammar is not sparkling, nor even prone to an occasional gloss shimmer; nonetheless, a book of this sort does little to help the sheen. Its voice...more
Eric
I never thought I would say this about a book, but every writer needs to read this book. Hell, if you plan on writing anything you should read this book. The title is very misleading. Anyone who came across it for the first time might think it was a book about "style" as an artform. For those who are worried about the pedantry of writing, this book is mostly about grammar and what can be more effective in using the English language. This needs to be in the curriculumn for high schools, especiall...more
Henry
There is no point in reviewing one of the most popular style guides ever. But what I can do is write about my experience with it. First, I am not a native English speaker. And second, I am an amateur fiction writer. This won't be the first book I would recommend to someone that doesn't know what an independent clause is. There are plenty of grammar rules for "normal" people out there. But for writers it is very helpful. I read and read the rules, time and time again, until they sink in. It has a...more
Keely
There must be some structure to language. We must agree on some aspects of it, and creating rules and definitions around those mutual agreements helps to foster intelligibility throughout the language.

Likewise, this agreement to abide by these rules means that we can teach communication. This does not mean only in the case of children, but it certainly simplifies it for them. This also means that writers can continue to learn, to interact, and to write understandably and not wastefully.

We take t...more
Lisa
What a classic. This book I read is a reprint from the original 1920 version.

It's a great book for writers. Let's face it, we all write emails, so we can all use it.

Here are examples of the great reminders I got from the book -

1) use active voice
not: confirmation of these reports cannot be obtained.
instead: these reports cannot be confirmed

2) omit needless words
not: he is a man who drinks often
instead: he drinks often

3) put statements in positive form
not: I did not pay attention to the rain drop...more
David Acevedo
I have a bone to pick with the author of this book. Several bones...

First off, the book is way too Americanised. The so called "elements of style" in this book are sold as international standard (a linguistic crime as there is no such thing), yet it sets aside the British proprieties as well as the Irish, Indian and Australian niceties. Now, maybe I'm a true internationalist, but when a book tells me that I should not use contractions in an official document, when in fact, there's a huge and ex...more
David Wallace Fleming
The aspect that makes this my book of choice regarding English language usage and style is the fact that its authors presented it in a structure that doesn’t demand a reader to understand the naming of the different parts of speech in order to benefit from its teaching.

The format is basically a series of boldface statements. These are spoken in the standard English gobbledeguck yet immediately backed up by real-world examples. This is a highly effective strategy because, let’s face it, all thos...more
David
It is very good for what it does, which is advise on how to write clearly and concisely. But generations of writers have completely misunderstood its purpose and used it as a Bible of Good Writing. It's not. Linguist Geoffrey Pullum has famously gone on something of a crusade against The Elements of Style, and while he makes good points, it may be a little unfair to blame S&W for the fact that writers don't realize the original authors were addressing an audience of barely-literate college s...more
Skyler Myers
May 15, 2014 Skyler Myers rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who have an adept understanding of English grammar and want tips to enhance their writing
PROs:

* Short and concise

* Good examples

* Lots of information covered in a small period of time

CONs:

* Technical grammatical language used

* Many statements are presented as absolutes (i.e. NEVER do 'this'), when in reality they are more situational

* HORRIBLE formatting on the Kindle

I saw that this book is highly recommended and regarded, decided to look it up, and found that it was free to download on the Kindle. I went ahead and downloaded it and read it in one sitting. Unfortunately much of it w...more
Karima
Jun 25, 2008 Karima rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who cherish language.
What a beautiful, slim volume of wisdom and written elegance.
I highly recommend this edition with illustrations by Maira Kalman. It has been, according to Roger Angell who writes the forward, "modestly" updated from the original, published in the WW 1 era.
Get this book. Give this book. Refer to this book over and over again.
Michael Allan Scott
No writer, serious about about his or her work, can live without it.
Vegetarian
I read the current version of this, not only in high school, but in elementary school. I am constantly "required" to read Strunk and White, whenever I have a class that requires more writing, as I did in my recent graduate program in research administration.

Every time writing becomes an issue, Strunk and White is one of the books course designers either recommend or require.
Jim
Everyone thinks of this as a book for writers, but today, most of us are. We write to communicate through email, memos & letters. Everyone can benefit by reading this book. It looks quite short & slim, but that is deceiving, like Kern & Ritchie's book on C. They fit a LOT into a small package & it takes practice & referral to get the basics down.
Aaron
This book was recommended to my by my former manager in Psychiatric Quality Control as a guide for effective writing. It's the best writing text I've come across yet. William Strunk and E.B. White (as in Charlotte's Web, one of Strunk's students) worked independently to produce this excellent work: Strunk wrote the original "draft" as classroom notes and after his death White arranged them for publication.

The book is composed of five chapters and a glossary. There are 22 rules, notes on good fo...more
David
This book is a bit of a mess, ironically, but is worth reading. My natural style is... somewhat baroque. I wanted to pick up some tips on writing more clearly, since my goal is more often communication than art. The first few sections of the book are great, and the examples are quite helpful (in addition to being amusing). Nonetheless, there are many problems with this book.

Section IV, on the use of words and phrases, is comically idiosyncratic. One of my pet peeves is the instance that words in...more
James
Style guides have three very useful functions, the third and least important of which is to help you write with style. Strunk's has rules aplenty, and while many of them are now somewhat dated or country specific, such as the Oxford comma and placing punctuation outside parentheses rather than within, the book is an interesting and readable guide to some of those style 'rules'.

The two other functions of style guides are much more important though. Firstly, you get to be smug towards people who d...more
Stephanie Sun
Sep 24, 2013 Stephanie Sun marked it as to-finish
"13. Omit Needless Words"

Quite apart from my own feelings on the new policy and the content deletions of last Friday, I am innately curious about the question of whether the deletion of a virtual bookshelf by someone other than its creator is censorship, high-level editing, or somewhere in between. If, as is likely, it is the third, then where on the gradient of censorship -> editing does it lie?

I thought a GIF might help illustrate things better:



To put it another way, if the impetus for the...more
Nathaniel
Accept no substitute for the 3rd edition of this exceptional work. The 4th edition includes "improvements" (hah!) by some ghost writer who seems to think that the singular "they" is acceptable. Here, E. B. White expands on Strunk's earlier work, and produces a compact and effective writing and style guide, explaining some of the best and least known errors that creep into everyone's writing. Know the difference between nauseous and nauseated? Imply and infer? Tortuous and torturous? You will aft...more
Mansoor
Apr 20, 2007 Mansoor rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is the oft-cited classic. If you haven't read it, read it. I know that seems an overly strong recommendation, but the value of this book's guidelines can't be understated.

Elements of Style contains the most valuable advice for any writer: “Omit needless words. Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecssary sentences.”

Also, the chapter “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused” is not only helpful, but funny.
Renee
Like STephen King's On Writing, this will be a book I will always pick up and leaf through. Very helpful and informative. I didn't realize how much I was doing wrong, but it was encouraging to know I was also doing quite a bit right. Half full or half empty, depends on the day.
I recommend this to anyone writing, hoping to write, or who just wants to understand all the crazy rules that come with writing.
Daniel
"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."
Michael
May 18, 2014 Michael rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Grammar nerds, pedants, text messagers
Recommended to Michael by: Brian Lopez
Shelves: how-to
My opinion of this book has been transformed, and then re-modified, quite a bit over this past year. Not terribly long ago I'd have told it it was a wonderful tool for teaching the basics of proper English usage and good, forceful writing across to people who wouldn't be interested in reading long treatises on esoteric aspects of linguistics. Although I had only read it once, and referred to it very infrequently, I thought of it as a candidate for a five-star rating.

Enter Geoffrey Pullum , gramm...more
Ant
I do not entirely agree with its worst detractors who claim that 'The Elements of Style' is one of the worst things that could possibly have happened to the English language. And even less so I believe that it is responsible for much of the bad style we see today amongst English writers in the U.S.A.. I don’t believe that any book, even if it is as highly regarded as Elements in the United States, has the power to do that. However, I do find its status amongst Americans as a style bible and thei...more
Amy
I don't agree with all Mr. Strunk's grammar, punctuation, and word usage rules. Much can change in a language between 1919 and 2008. Many of the nearly 100-year-old pet peeves of Mr. Strunk don't sound wrong to our modern ears. Thusly, I shall will use "like" as much as I want. I will also never write "Charles's" instead of "Charles'". I would hate to have Mr. Strunk as an English teacher marking up my essays because one cannot come to a mutual agreement to disagree with someone who has the powe...more
Lily
I thought I'd just take a moment to say this book is stupid. It doesn't contain any of the grammatical errors/ rules that I would tend to forget, and only includes a bunch of ones I already know. It is overrated.

I would like to know why it is so successful, and has inspired so many spinoffs. If you type "the elements of style" you get this whole list of versions of the same idea, all purporting to strip a field down to its barest essentials- of design, of fonts, of java (a computer language), o...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Handbooks 1 34 Jul 15, 2013 01:59AM  
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • The Associated Press Stylebook: and Briefing on Media Law, Fully Revised and Updated [2004]
  • The Elements of Grammar
  • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
  • The Elements of Editing
  • The Craft of Research (Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing)
  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • The Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
  • Becoming a Writer
  • A Writer's Reference: With 2003 MLA Update
  • Style: Toward Clarity and Grace
  • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
  • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • The New Fowler's Modern English Usage
Juliana All for Love and the Spanish Fryar (1911) Studies in Language and Literature in Celebration of the Seventieth Birthday of James Morgan Hart, November 2, 1909 MLA for the Modern Student & The Elements of Style (Combo Book) APA for the Modern Student & The Elements of Style (Combo Book)

Share This Book

“Omit needless words.” 1592 likes
“To achieve style, begin by affecting none.” 23 likes
More quotes…