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The Elements of Style (Elements of Composition Series)

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  58,079 Ratings  ·  2,990 Reviews
New York Times: "Buy it, study it, enjoy it. It's as timeless as a book can be in our age of volubility." Boston Globe: "No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume."
Paperback, Fourth Edition, 105 pages
Published August 2nd 1999 by Longman Publishing Group (first published 1918)
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Alan Cecil Because it's the Elements of Style, not the Elements of Photography.
Abdulrahman Worth the time? I finished half of it while having breakfast on a Friday morning. Though brief, it is invaluable.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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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
Patrick Gibson
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
J.G. 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
David
Jul 12, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Kenny
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Pooja
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebooks
Write to-day, to-night, to-morrow (but not together) with hyphen.

Write any one, every one, some one, some time (except the sense of formerly) as two words.

Thanking you in advance. This sounds as if the writer meant, "It will not be worth my while to write to you again." Simply write, "Thanking you," and if the favor which you have requested is granted, write a letter of acknowledgment.

#Life-Writing-Lessons!


Richard Derus
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 5* of five

The essential guide to HOW to write! How much better to start with a guide to achieving an effect you're looking for.
David
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
JonathanT
OBVIOUSLY I NEED MORE APPRECIATION FOR GRAMMAR. But to be honest I’ve never been much of a grammar enthusiast?? At all?? Just stalk my blog for any amount of time and you’ll figure out that typos are my trademark. XD

But still, despite the fact that this is drier than hardtack and less interesting than dirt, IT IS 100% HELPFUL. Like why did no one tell me before now that it’s “memento” not “momento?” I feel betrayed by autocorrect tbh.

Next time I have a question about grammar (HAHAHAhaha let’s
...more
Blake
May 02, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grammar
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
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
Roy Lotz
I still remember, and will always remember, my 11th grade English class. Before that year, English class had meant little more than vocabulary tests, book reports, and those five-paragraph (hamburger) essays. But this class was different. Our teacher was not interested in getting us to pass a standardized test; instead, she wanted to really teach us how to read and write.

To my astonishment, I realized that nobody had ever done that before. I had been taught how to write a five-paragraph essay, b
...more
Simon Fay
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a couple of reviewers have mentioned, Elements of Style has become somewhat out of style. There are plenty of people who stand by it as a trusted source for all things grammar, but I imagine even diehard supporters will grudgingly admit that the standards it established have led to some truly convoluted sentences.

Even so, I still recommend it as a handy pocketbook for anybody who's interested in the craft of writing. When I originally read it a number of years ago, I was a little strict in fo
...more
Paul Nash
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're an aspiring writer or just like to write for pleasure (like myself), there's no better grammatical guide!
King turned me on to this little gem! :)
Peter
Jul 05, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Dated and Obsolete.

Readers that are looking for a style manual, a usage or grammar guide can find many options better than Strunk and White. When I began using this book back in the late 1980s, it helped me immensely with college papers and then my early writing for work. Now, reading it again, thirty years later, it is just like the computer I used back in the late eighties, obsolete in many ways and underpowered for today's tasks.

The English language is always growing and changing, impacted b
...more
Lisa
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Will Ransohoff
It's a little prescriptive, but this book's advice is solid. The fourth chapter was actually fun to read because parts of it came across as a long, pompous rant.

"To say, "Hopefully I'll leave on the noon plane" is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you'll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you'll leave on the noon plane? Whichever you mean, you haven't said it clearly. Although the word in its new, free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to m
...more
Jim
Nov 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Gisela Hausmann
What a great book - a classic. I loved the funny examples (of yore), sentences most of us would not write any longer. Then again, because we would not write them anymore we pay attention, we are tempted to analyze them. Is the book still relevant? You bet!

“… show the weakness of the word NOT. Consciously or unconsciously, the reader is dissatisfied with being told only what is not; he wishes to be told what is. Hence, as a rule, it is better to express even a negative in positive form.

Not honest
...more
Kellyn Roth
Admittedly, I use the dictionary a lot less than this little book.
David Fleming
Jul 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Hayden
I feel like I've just been dumped into a bathtub where I've been vigorously and roughly scrubbed until raw.

This book is short and viciously concise. Its strongly worded list of dos and don'ts in writing is not left to any ambiguity. (I guess the author is following his own advice)

I do not agree with those who view this book as the ultimate word on grammar and writing (we're not supposed to say "five people" but instead "five persons?" Seriously?) but neither do I disparage it as an outdated and
...more
Stela
This was a very quick reading!
A useful book for teachers, with some basic linguistic and stylistic rules clearly explained. I found a lot of errors my students endlessly commit and I list for fun some of them:
- always refer the participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence to the grammatical subject, in order not to lead to sentences like the following: "Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap." Poor me!;
-do not form paragraphs of single sentences (I'll never
...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 rated it it was ok  ·  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
Gauri
Jan 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My former literature teacher recommended this text to me when I asked him about tools to improve my writing.
It discusses grammar, word choice, and writing style. Though I knew some of the information in this book, because reading frequently instills writing patterns in one's mind, the rest of the information summarized every little piece of feedback former teachers have given me about my writing, which I need to take heed of. I found this to be beneficial, and I think I will keep my paperback co
...more
R.K. Ryde
Feb 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great reference book when writing. To be honest though, I like the illustrations more :)
Gavin Abdollahi
“The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.”

The Elements of Style is THEwriter's handbook.
It is a collection of rules and tips, meant to guide you on your journey of writing.
Those rules and tips are very helpful, informati
...more
Beth
Aug 17, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no one!
Recommended to Beth by: required reading for a class
I hated, hated, HATED this book! Talk about literary elitism at its worst. This book annoyed me to no end because the entire tone of this book was, "If you write like this or if you say this, then it's wrong." So much of what was written in the "Improperly used words" section could be completely argued that language has evolved to the point where many of these rules don't apply anymore. I also didn't like the imperative manner in which it was written. Don't order me to do these things; give me e ...more
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
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
Highlights 1 1 Sep 11, 2017 12:19AM  
Books to Read for...: The Elements of Style - A Book Everyone Should Have 1 7 Aug 29, 2016 07:49AM  
bisnis toke: Hot 2 3 Oct 04, 2015 04:44AM  
Writing Aid 4 24 Mar 06, 2015 06:18AM  
Handbooks 1 49 Jul 15, 2013 01:59AM  
  • The Chicago Manual of Style
  • The Elements of Grammar
  • MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers
  • The Elements of Editing
  • Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • Characters and Viewpoint (Elements of Fiction Writing)
  • The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law
  • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft
  • The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed
  • Creating Short Fiction: The Classic Guide to Writing Short Fiction
  • Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
  • Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
  • Roget's International Thesaurus
  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
  • Beginnings, Middles & Ends (Elements of Fiction Writing)
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William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).
More about William Strunk Jr....

Other Books in the Series

Elements of Composition Series (6 books)
  • The Elements of Technical Writing (Elements of Composition)
  • The Elements of Reasoning
  • The Elements of Grammar for Writers
  • The Elements of Writing about Literature and Film
  • The Elements of Critical Reading

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“Omit needless words.” 1613 likes
“To achieve style, begin by affecting none.” 39 likes
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