The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition (Paperback) ~ William Stru... Cover Art

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition (Paperback)

By: William Strunk Jr., E. B. White

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A masterpiece in the art of clear and concise writing, and an exemplar of the principles it explains.

Short Desription

Contains rules of grammar phrased as direct orders and provides the principal requirements of plain English style. Concentrates on fundamentals: the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. Softcover. DLC: English language--Style.

Editorial Reviews


The Elements of Style - William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

In a shallow perusal of The Elements of Style, it may be easy to take it as just another grammar handbook. As generations of publishers, editors, and authors will tell you, this slim volume is actually the most comprehensive English style guide ever written.

The original edition of William Strunk’s book was written in 1918 for an English composition course he was teaching at Cornell University. In 1957, E.B. White rediscovered the thin book - he had studied under Strunk years before - which he described as a “forty-three-page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.” White was then commissioned by MacMillan and Company to expand the book in 1957 and the first edition of Strunk And White, as known to some of it’s devotees, went on to sell over three million copies.

The currently 84 page style guide includes every aspect of writing, from grammar to sentence structure, even commonly misused words, with the single goal of clear, lucid writing.

The book is broken into five sections. The first is ‘Elementary Rules of Usage’ which deals mainly on sentence structure and grammar. The second section is about overall composition of a piece, ‘Elementary Principles of Composition’ and includes pointers such as ‘Use the active voice’ and ‘Omit needless words’.

The third section of the book is ‘A Few Matters of Form’. This brief chapter includes tips on quotations and various grammatical symbols. Chapter four – one of my personal favorites – is ‘Words and Expressions Commonly Misused’.

At this juncture I’m fully prepared to be called nerd. This chapter, for all its usefulness, is also funny. The vehemence that Strunk and White clearly had for improper word usage shines through. The chapter drips with sarcasm and even malice, the authors calling word usage silly and certain verbs annoying. For instance, the entry ‘The foreseeable future’ reads:

“A cliché, and a fuzzy one. How much of the future is foreseeable? Ten minutes? Ten years? Any of it? By whom is it foreseeable? Seers? Experts? Everybody?”

The final section is a broader look at writing, ‘An Approach to Style’. This last section was added in by White in his 1957 edition. It’s a valuable resource for everyone, from the amateur teen to the doctoral linguistics candidate.

This is an excellent book. I’d be the last to affix any sort of stringent rules on writing, but if you follow this book you will improve your writing.

Keep in mind; this is not a grammar book. This is for people who have a grasp of grammar and writing and are looking to improve. Every serious writer will have a good dictionary as well as a grammar book handy, but without The Elements of Style you still run the risk of getting lost in the “vast tangle of English rhetoric.” Buy this book, keep it in your pocket and try to omit the needless words.

-Nic, TOWER PULSE 05/23/2008

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