88 of 93 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 1998
I bought my first copy of THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE nearly thirty years ago, when I was 13 years old. It cost me one dime, in a thrift shop. That is still the best dime I've ever spent.
THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE is indispensable for anyone who wants to write. It distills the essence of writing clear, direct, logical prose. I read it four times a year; in addition, I read it again whenever I am about to begin a large writing project. This book has shaped every word I've ever written, and it has taught me more than I can say about life. That may sound weird or idiosyncratic, but it's not -- for the principles that guide the writing of clear, direct, logical English prose are the same principles that guide a life of integrity and commitment. Writing honestly and clearly is the surest path to living honestly and clearly.
Buy it, read it, reread it, live by it. You won't be sorry.
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on December 16, 1996
Many books about writing are huge, but "The Elements
of Style," the best of them, is extremely short: 92 pages,
including index. Read them all. Briefly and vigorously,
Strunk and White will tell you, for example, when to use
(and not to use) commas, which words to avoid, how to divide
paragraphs, and generally how to pare your writing down to
essentials. Many professional writers advise reading Strunk
and White cover-to-cover once a year. If you do any regular
writing, of letters or anything else, then follow that
77 of 87 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 1999
OK. So this is one of the definitive reference books on style in written English. Just don't confuse style with grammar--if you want to understand grammar per se, this isn't the book for you. (Steven Pinker's "The Language Instinct" is what you want--quite a bit wittier than Strunk & White, too.) "The Chicago Manual of Style" or "Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age" are both for sale at Amazon, too, and I think they're ultimately better references. But if you want to write well, well, buy Strunk & White, and abide by their oft-archaic but always lucid guidelines. Just, please, don't stop with them. The most-acclaimed writers in the English language conform not closely to Strunk & White's principles (cf. Shakespeare, Jefferson, Longfellow, Hemmingway, Pynchon, Morrison... whatever your taste may be), so be mindful that this book is not alone the key to becoming a great writer.
33 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on February 4, 2001
This is a classic. Books, music, plays, and movies become classics because they are foundations that inform, entertain, and break new ground (in my opinion). I cannot remember when this book was not recommended for those who needed or wanted to know the elements, the basics of English grammar, including sentence structure and frequently misspelled or misused words.
One of the most incorrectly used punctuation marks is the comma. This small, 85 page book, is an excellent reference for novice or grammarian. Teachers can take the simple exercises and teach their students -- and students can look-up the rules. Without form and structure, language degenerates. Dictionaries, quickly become out of date, as the next generation adds their own words. That is a reason to keep your dictionary current, by the way. However the basic structure of English grammar doesn't change simply because it is misunderstood.
Please note: there are more commas than necessary in the above paragraph... a reason to read the book is to correct all of the errors I put into that paragraph.
This book is now on special order only. I have a copy somewhere in my garage, but gave up looking for it and bought a new copy. I do not regret one single penny.
If you write, or read (or talk) then this book is a must.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 1999
If every journalist, novelist, and speechwriter had this book and learned to "Omit needless words!" it would be a much better world.
The other humorous and opinionated guide to good writing you should get is Henry W. Fowler's "Modern English Usage". (Not the new edition, though; it's been ruined.)
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on July 1, 1999
If I could, I'd give this book 10 stars. It's the one and only reference book you'll ever need on writing. Positively indispensible. Don't let the slim volume fool you, it's far & away better then a library full of pedantic, overblown manuals (that's what 99% of most "reference" works are anyway). On the other hand, this book's succinct clarity will amaze you, it's brilliance will surprise you...Get it, you'll never regret it and if you do then you must enjoy butchering the English language -- shame on you!
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 1999
Strunk and White's volume advances the hope that people will become better writers and offers concrete rules that will help us avoid the blunders that most quickly expose our ignorance. But, its not enough. To become better writers, we must change the way we think about writing. Strunk & White don't go far enough. If you have already mastered many of the tips in this volume, I strongly recommend Joseph M. Williams' "Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity & Grace." It takes the discussion that Strunk & White initiated to the next level.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2005
There was a time when I hated The Elements of Style. It had been forced upon me by a series of crusty old English teachers and I recoiled and grumbled every time I saw it. In time, much to my surprise, I discovered how helpful this book could be and I found myself seeking its guidance more and more often.
I have been out of school for years now but I still treasure my copy of The Elements of Style, keeping it within arms reach on my desk at home, along with my dictionary, thesaurus, and Chicago Manual of Style. I read it once a year. This slim book I once considered insufferable is now invaluable to me.
Although it is not as comprehensive as the massive Chicago Manual of Style, The Elements of Style has far more soul, humor, and wisdom in a far shorter space. It covers all the basics -- punctuation and usage, composition, form, and frequently misused words and expressions. The final chapter offers stylistic counsel to anyone brave enough to tackle the challenge of writing well. These are deceptively simple platitudes such as "Do not overwrite," "Be clear," and "Write in a way that comes naturally." White calls these his "articles of faith" and his advice is practical and priceless.
The Elements of Style is a classic whose value has been proven through time and through countless testimonials. And yes, I must admit, those crusty old English teachers were right after all.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 1999
This book stands as the benchmark for writing and grammatical style. Buy it, and re-read it many times. It will be more valuable than a dictionary. Parsimonious and direct, with all the needed concepts in a small paperback, what else can you ask for?
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 1999
This book will take the wind out of the sails of the pompous, the excessive, the unnecessary in prose. You'll find yourself throwing adjectives to the wolves and taking a meat axe to bloated sentences.
In a word, this book is cool.