Wednesday, October 29, 2014

William Strunk Jr & E B White. The Elements of Style, 2nd edition (1972)

     William Strunk Jr & E B White. The Elements of Style, 2nd edition (1972) I first read this marvellous book several decades ago. I can’t recall who recommended it, but I owe them thanks. Strunk‘s course and his little book were legendary at Harvard.  His advice, allowing for changes in usage, is still sound. Know and understand grammar. Know and respect the rules of usage. Revise and rewrite. That’s it. There isn’t anything more.
   The Rules give examples that exemplify this advice. Most of the rules still stand. E B White revised the examples of bad usage, and added a chapter of general advice on the craft of writing. Some of the bad examples have either disappeared or become accepted, but that should not dissuade a writer from ignoring current usage. Good usage in any era consists of writing for the reader.
     When I taught composition, I stressed that writing should be clear, concise, and correct. In that order. Rereading Strunk’s book and E B White’s addition to it, I think that these three words sum up their counsel. ****

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