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The Elements of Style

(Elements of Composition Series)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  66,253 ratings  ·  3,495 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 May 25th 2019 by Pearson (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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4.20  · 
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 ·  66,253 ratings  ·  3,495 reviews


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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
Daniel Cowan
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book for beginning writers to use as a guide. It cleary spells out the rules of English grammar, and provides examples to explain each guideline. I highly recommend this little gem! I bought this book at special price from here:
https://www.amazon.com/Elements-Style...
Pooja
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 100-pages
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!


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
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
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.
Tassa DeSalada
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This small book is a mountain of good writing advice!
Leonard Gaya
“It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric”, says professor Strunk. The old fart was probably referring to his students at Cornell University. The Elements of Style is indeed a dusty textbook (1918), but still widely in use today. It aims at providing a set of rules and tips on how to write properly, if not elegantly. Stephen King, in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, strongly recommends this book to any aspiring fiction writer.

In truth, such rules
...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
Dannii Elle
I find it very impressive that this was written almost one hundred years ago and still remains so relevant and revered today.

The book does exactly what the title suggests – covers stylistic elements of the English language. Each rule covered has multiple examples attached to it for proficient understanding and it managed to be both highly informative, whilst offering me nothing new. This is certainly of great practical help in academic writing, but I found it rather lacking for my current desire
...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
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
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
Joey
Oct 20, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have always wanted to be fluent in English ever since I took to this language. I was inspired by my cousin who was ‘English-era’ and whom I found smart at answering any question I would pose to her. I was even astounded to find out that she always memorized English words with her mini dictionary to be more expressive of her thoughts and feelings. I thought to myself that in doing so could have been the key to becoming proficient in English. Fascinated, I did the same manner; she allowed me to ...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
Fahad Naeem
Oct 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
The manual of language for formal writing. Don't read it if you're interested in writing fiction books.
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
Clumsy Storyteller
Very helpful for young authors. And should be read more than once.
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
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.
Kellyn Roth
Admittedly, I use the dictionary a lot less than this little book.
Amir Tesla
This is an essential book on the basic principles of a good writing style.
A must-read for anyone who aspires to be a serious writer. (Stephan King)
K.D. Absolutely
I had this book since 7 years ago but I just did not have the motivation to read it. I reasoned that I knew how to write simple email correspondences and that was enough. If I were to a book, it would have been in Filipino because that is the language that I am more comfortable with. If I need to write in English, I would just hire a good editor to correct my lapses in grammar.

Until I joined Toastmasters International 15 months ago. The grammarian is one of the club meeting roles. In that role,
...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
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
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A Writer's Cancer 2 22 Sep 01, 2018 12:00PM  
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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).

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
“To achieve style, begin by affecting none.” 46 likes
“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.” 42 likes
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