Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Elements of Style” as Want to Read:
The Elements of Style
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Read Book* *Different edition

The Elements of Style

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  80,495 ratings  ·  4,373 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 you communicate more effectively by showing you how to enliven your sentences.
Hardcover, 105 pages
Published August 24th 1999 by Allyn & Bacon (first published 1918)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Elements of Style, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Alan Cecil Because it's the Elements of Style, not the Elements of Photography. …moreBecause it's the Elements of Style, not the Elements of Photography. (less)
Abdulrahman Worth the time? I finished half of it while having breakfast on a Friday morning. Though brief, it is invaluable.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  80,495 ratings  ·  4,373 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Elements of Style
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
Robin Hobb
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Yes. This is a very good book for anyone who wants to write anything.

Of course, you can break any rule when you are writing. But I believe that is more effective when you know the rule you are breaking, and you know why you are breaking it.

No matter if you are writing a high school book report or a novel, familiarity with these old fashioned guide to writing can be helpful.

I recommend it for any writer's reference shelf.
Patrick Gibson
Jul 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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
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
Oct 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
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
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:
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 stude ...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.
L.S. Popovich
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 5-star, 2020, nonfiction
Many other books on writing are not as directly helpful as this one. I have made every mistake a human being can make while writing. I'm making mistakes right now. Improvement is a lifelong process. This readable and referenceable book is one to keep in the desk drawer, to peruse before and after writing.

Aside from the argument that the English language is sliding toward less standardization, many editors, agents, publishers and readers demand or expect PhD-level grammar (whatever that equates t
Tassa DeSalada
May 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This small book is a mountain of good writing advice!
Dec 04, 2015 rated it liked it
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.


Meredith (Slowly Catching Up)
I find this book fascinating, especially when comparing it to modern style guides. While it won't become my go to when working with students, I consider it a valuable resource. ...more


To quote Stephen King in the foreword of his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft: "I figured the shorter the book, the less the nonsense*. One notable exception to the nonsense* rule is The Element of Styles, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. There is little or no detectable nonsense* in that book."

I agree with that statement!

This book is not perfect so of course it's got some errors. However, there are reasons this is considered one of the most important books on writing. The fact that
Simon Fay
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Amir Tesla
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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)

There was a small book by Strunk & White
A book that I read in just one night
Its style so simple
Like a smile or a dimple
Has led me to think I can’t write

A sinistra... / A destra...

Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Prakriti Regmi
Jul 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation — it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.

To review, the book is an amazingly curated edition that has scored well in the attempt of presenting vital things in a concise and clear manner.

And, here are some of my prime takeaways from the book.

• Unnecessary emphasis of a sentence is never the demand.
• The word but when trailed after doubt or help turns needless.
• Data is and always w
Clumsy Storyteller
Very helpful for young authors. And should be read more than once.
da AL
Apr 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who knew a book about grammar could be so entertaining & useful? And Frank McCourt is the perfect choice to perform the audiobook!
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
Will Ransohoff
Mar 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Kellyn Roth
Admittedly, I use the dictionary a lot less than this little book.
Oct 20, 2013 rated it liked it
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
May 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: grammar
Had I read this a year ago, happily under the spell of grammar 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. I
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
A Writer's Cancer 2 49 Sep 01, 2018 12:00PM  
Highlights 1 8 Sep 11, 2017 12:19AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
  • The Local School
  • A Conservation Notebook
  • Soul Cure: How to Heal Your Pain and Discover Your Purpose
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
  • Vision to Reality: Stop Working, Start Living
  • Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
  • Fierce Love: Creating a Love that Lasts—One Conversation at a Time
  • A Gracious Enemy & After the War Volume Two
  • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
  • Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn from Actors
  • Zen in the Art of Writing
  • The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
  • Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
  • Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within
  • 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
See similar books…
See top shelves…
William Strunk Jr. was a professor of English at Cornell University and, together with E.B. White, author of The Elements of Style (1918).


News & Interviews

As the final days of the year tick themselves off the calendar, the 2022 Goodreads Reading Challenge is coming to a close. Sincere...
133 likes · 113 comments
“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.” 62 likes
“To achieve style, begin by affecting none.” 56 likes
More quotes…