« The Comma Manifesto - Eats, Shoots & Leaves | Main | Writing Well Doesn't Need to Be Scary - Stephen King - On Writing »

April 17, 2009

The Elements of Style turns Fifty

The Elements of Style, the definitive writing guide by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr., turned 50 on Thursday, April 16, 2009.

From the introduction - "The Elements of Style" was Will Strunk's parvum opus, his attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin. Will himself hung the title "little" on the book: he referred to it sardonically and with secret pride as "the little book," always giving the word "little" a special twist, as though he were putting a spin on a ball."

These are the rules of English summed up, distilled and...

... presented clearly. Every writer (or speaker) of English needs to embrace this book. It is sloppy writers - and speakers - who meander, use the wrong words and lose their readers (or listeners).

My goal as a teacher is to equip my students with the tools and confidence to speak clearly and confidently - in short to be understood.

Here is my nomination for the best paragraph in the book:

"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 sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

In short, every word should be essential, every sentence should be clear, complete and coherent. Refine your vocabulary, get rid of the clutter and use your language as the ultimate best first impression.

And get yourself a copy of The Elements of Style by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr.

My best to you,


Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and riding his bicycle in unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Posted by mmorf at April 17, 2009 09:41 AM

Trackback Pings

TrackBack URL for this entry:


Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)