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The Elements of Style: The Original Edition
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The Elements of Style: The Original Edition

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  43,071 ratings  ·  2,108 reviews
The original edition of the most trusted writer's guide to American English, this is the book that generations of writers have relied upon for timeless advice on grammar, diction, syntax, sentence construction, and other writing essentials. In brief and concise terms, author William Strunk, Jr., identifies the principal requirements of proper American English style and con ...more
Paperback, 64 pages
Published May 26th 2006 by Dover Publications (first published 1918)
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    Community Reviews

    (showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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    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
    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
    Kenny
    Oct 14, 2007 Kenny rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    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
    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 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
    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
    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
    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.
    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.
    Travelin
    Too short, too bloodless, too focused on being brief, explicit and direct, mostly by demanding construction of sentences using active voice. A friend with a PH.D, forced by the demands of academic publishing to write in nothing but passive voice, developed a maddening frustration, after being taught that this book was the gold standard in written English. The style White profers often makes simple writers sound more active, more certain, and more strident than most any writer is.

    In secondary sch
    ...more
    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.
    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.
    Ksenia Anske
    MUST READ for every writer. That's it, nothing else to say. Oh, one more thing - carry it with you at all times like a wallet with precious photographs to take out and marvel at at times of distress.
    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  ·  review of another edition
    "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
    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
    Mansoor
    Apr 20, 2007 Mansoor rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    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.
    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."
    Anna Vincent
    Sep 06, 2014 Anna Vincent rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
    Recommends it for: Everyone
    Shelves: how-to-guides
    This book is a MUST for all writers. Even people who just write emails (not books or articles) need to read this. If you only buy one book on writing, let it be this one!

    Only eighty-five pages long, this is a richly informative and useful book on writing properly in regards to style. I read the introduction by E.B. White, who gave a touching account of his one-time professor William Strunk Jr., commenting on his dedication to brevity and clarity in writing. White edited Strunk’s book, staying t
    ...more
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    Handbooks 1 40 Jul 15, 2013 05:59PM  
    • The Chicago Manual of Style
    • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
    • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
    • The Associated Press Stylebook: and Briefing on Media Law, Fully Revised and Updated [2004]
    • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
    • The Elements of Editing
    • The Elements of Grammar
    • Style: Toward Clarity and Grace
    • Bartlett's Familiar Quotations : A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature
    • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
    • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
    • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
    • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
    • Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish
    • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
    • Writing the Breakout Novel
    • Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
    • A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations
    The Elements of Style(illustrated) The Elements of Style (Illustrated): The Elements of Style (Illustrated) Juliana All for Love and the Spanish Fryar (1911) MLA for the Modern Student & The Elements of Style (Combo Book)

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    “Omit needless words.” 1596 likes
    “To achieve style, begin by affecting none.” 27 likes
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