Monday, February 8, 2010

Writer's Book Shelf-The Elements of Style

Book Review: William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White's The Elements of Style

By Christina Adams

The Elements of Style is a classic rule book on the basics of grammar and fundamentals of style. The whole book is written as a long list of rules separated by glossaries. In five brief parts, each covering its own topic, the English language is broken down into understandable mechanics.

The first part covers grammar and punctuation, or as they call it, Elementary Rules of Usage. The second part goes deeper covering composition, from using the active voice to keeping related words together. The third part goes over the use of form, such as referencing, quotations and headings. The fourth section covers misused words and expressions. This was my favorite section because the authors went into detail on how these words are misused and the proper way to use them. They go through word definitions for farther/further, effect/affect, aggravate/irritate, disinterested/uninterested, nauseous/nauseated and give the actual meaning for everyday words like data (which is plural) and hopefully (which means 'with hope' not 'I hope' as it is now often intended). The fifth and last part goes deeper into style and outlines how to make your writing a clear, communicating tool. There is also a glossary and index at the end pushing the page count to a mere 105.

While this book originally came out in 1935 and definitely has an older, textbook-type, feel to it, the passion and understanding of the English language, as well as what it stands for, shines through. It has been updated, several times, since then, although I can't help imagining the horror they would have at the direction technology has taken our communication. I found this book a helpful reminder of the respect I should have for the boundaries of language and a deeper insight into the power of the written word. This book is one of the few universal writers book and can be beneficial for fiction or nonfiction writers equally. If you want a short read this book is for you.


Patricia said...

Indeed, a classic. Every writer needs to have one on their shelf. Thanks for the reminder.

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