Friday, February 13, 2009

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

I’m embarrassed to say that I have had the definitive book on the fundamentals of writing on my shelves for many years without opening it. After spending four weeks reading The Count of Monte Cristo, I was looking for something less hefty and was attracted to this little book for its simplicity and brevity. Though not as hilarious as Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, The Elements of Style is wryly humorous and a pleasure to read.

Originally published in 1935 and revised in 1959, Elements is the essential grammar handbook. As E.B. White writes in the intro, "The Elements of Style was Will Strunk’s attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules on the head of a pin."

In just over 70 pages he does the job well. The first part of the book reviews specific grammar rules. The second part highlights popular mistakes and the last pages deal with a writer’s specific style. Strunk argues that good writing is concise and that sentences should contain no unnecessary words. This does not mean that sentences must be short or lack detail, but that every word should count. I loved his common sense approach to writing and have used many of his suggestions to clarify my own writing. This is a book to read and re-read. Highly recommended!


Heather VanTimmeren said...

This is such a great book, but then I tend to be a grammar nazi... Thanks for the review!

Laura said...

I love this book, too, and have all my children read it at least once. My favorite rule of all time is: Omit needless words. Can't get any clearer than that!

Girl Detective said...

I still haven't gotten to Eats Shoots, but I read this one a while ago, and was glad to have done so. I'd like to get the illustrated edition; it sounds lovely.

Anonymous said...

I'm always looking for readable books about style and grammar. I'll check this one out.