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Book Review: Elements of Style

The Elements of Style (Fourth Edition)The Elements of Style

by William Strunk, Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

View all my book reviews

This book was originally published in the 1930′s and after 49 editions, is still one of the best selling books about writing. It covers all the basics in 95 concise pages, in a book small enough to fit in a pocket. Reviews say things like, “No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume.” “…should be the daily companion of anyone who writes for a living and, for that matter, anyone who writes at all.”

It has competitors. Consider:

  • Garner’s Modern American Usage
  • Bernstein’s The Careful Writer
  • Jack Hart’s A Writers Coach

…but still, Strunk and White is the most famous, most oft-quoted, most recommended of any. Amazon ranks it #1 in writing skills, #1 in grammar and #9 in reference. It’s the 555th most popular book on the entire site.

Why is that?

Look at the Table of Contents:

  • Elementary Rules of Usage, which lists eleven rules–the eleven most relevant to writers
  • Elementary Principles of Composition–This includes eleven also, with items like use the active voice, put statements in positive form, omit needless words. Great suggestions. Often, these are the mistakes writers make
  • A Few Matters of Form, which includes colloquialisms, headings, hyphens, numbers
  • Words and Expressions Commonly Misused--twenty-seven pages of words like aggravate/irritate, among/between, farther/further
  • An Approach to Style With a List of Reminders–hints like Do not overwrite, avoid fancy words, don not affect a breezy manner, do not over-explain

Did you notice? Although these were considered important rules in the 1930′s and are the same issues faced by writers today. Maybe that’s why it’s still one of the best-selling, most popular books ever.

More writing tips:

Beautiful Words

Writers Tip #65: Thing? Really?

Writer’s Tip #45: Finish Sentences

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is  editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.

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18 thoughts on “Book Review: Elements of Style

  1. Jacquie, Diamonds are NOT really for ever except in 007 films’ gold is. And you’ve just told us this truth. Being a novice writer, I wish I had dug out this gold while I was young. Thanks Jacqui. Arun

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Dictionary for Writers and Editors | WordDreams...

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