Nicholas Karpuk's Reviews > The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.
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Dec 22, 09

Read in December, 2009

Some books deserve highlighting. I'm normally averse to abusing a book, but my copy of Elements of Style is now dog-eared, bent up, and bleeding through from all the highlighter ink.

It's hard to tell exactly how much E.B. White added when he revised the work of Professor Strunk, but I would attribute a lot of the warmth and cleverness to the rewrite, as it comes from the same man who wrote Charlotte's Web.

If there's one flaw in the slim volume, it's in the beginning, which starts off cataloguing a large number of punctuation and grammar rules. This section made me realize how ignorant I am on the subject. I had to flip to the back to read through the glossary many times to weather through it. It's all useful, and I now feel compelled to step up my game. Currently I'm reading through Wikipedia's Guide to English Grammar.

Everything past that is plain, very sensible advice on how to write with greater clarity and purpose. Many pitfalls and common issues are outlined in an easy to understand fashion.

The greatest thing I walked away with was the greater understanding of the books titular focus (eesh, the book makes me self conscious about using words like that), style, and how it really develops.

Many new writers, and occasionally even professional ones, have tendency to think of style as something that only exists if you add a million flourishes, adding excessive adjectives, adverbs, and convoluted sentence structures. Strunk and White suggest that even with all the excess stripped out, the writer's style is still there, and in some ways a streamlined approach enhances it.

Elements of Style is an valuable tool for any writer.
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