- Paperback: 105 pages
- Publisher: Pearson; 4th edition (August 2, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780205309023
- ISBN-13: 978-0205309023
- ASIN: 020530902X
- Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.4 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 2,837 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition 4th Edition
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"...a marvellous and timeless little book... Here, succinctly, elegantly and without fuss are the essentials of writing clear, correct English."John Clare, The Telegraph
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"White is one of the best stylists and most lucid minds in this country. What he says and his way of saying it are equally rewarding."
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". . . Should be the daily companion of anyone who writes for a living, and for that matter, anyone who writes at all."
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"This excellent book, which should go off to college with every freshman, is recognized as the best book of its kind we have."
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"It's hard to imagine an engineer or a manager who doesn't need to express himself in English prose as part of his job. It's also hard to imagine a writer who will not be improved by a liberal application of The Elements of Style."
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Back when I worked for a newspaper, one of my editors was trying to get a review of mine on a particular page, which meant he needed to edit a little bit out ... he came back and told me - I couldn't edit your review. Every word was essential. - YES. Thank you, Strunk & White.
I'm writing this review for the free Kindle version with tan and dark red cover (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B005IT0V8O/ref=cm_cr_ryp_prd_ttl_sol_0). This Kindle version has clickable linkage, the Table of Contents is simple and well constructed, and the book is loaded with examples, so it's good to have as a reference for those times when one gets stuck on a cumbersome sentence or an overused word or expression, for suggestions on resolving active/passive voice, and so forth. Beyond that, my best advice for anyone who's already well-versed in grammar and composition is this, from the book's Introductory section:
"... once past the essentials, students profit most by individual instructions based on the problems of their own work...".
In other words, don't expect this book to work miracles. It won't write your book, essay or user guide for you. But as my heading says, I do recommend "Elements" as a desk tool for getting past any nagging nuances/bad habits one may have as a writer, or for attacking specific issues as they arise.
There, I've already violated one of the rules that advises use of the active voice. The problem is that I don't recall the name of the professor who made this remarkable volume part of his syllabus. I don't even remember what the class's subject was. But I remember this book, and its wise and useful counsel.
At the same time, returning to it after more than thirty years has provided the opportunity to view it critically, in a way I was incapable of the first time I encountered it. Perhaps "critically" is too harsh a word; more that certain sections cannot help but call to mind facts and observations of the past few decades that weren't available before.
The comma: Strunk doesn't call it the Oxford Comma, but he recommends enclosing parenthetical clauses with commas, avoiding sentences like "I owe my success to my parents, Jesus Christ and Oprah Winfrey."
A clever person is ingenious; a clever horse is good-natured, although Strunk doesn't mention "Clever Hans," a horse who appeared to possess the ability to count, when he was in fact taking cues from barely-perceptible movements of his owner when he arrived at the correct number. Very "clever" indeed.
"Enormity" expresses monstrous evil, not bigness, although I imagine Strunk would not approve of "bigly" even in the context of monstrous evil.
Jails, hospitals, and schools may not be "facilities," but sometimes you have to use the facilities in those types of facilities.
Regarding "like" and "as," anyone who was around when cigarettes were still advertised may recall "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should." "You mean 'as a cigarette should'." "Whaddya want - good grammar or lung cancer?"
If "shall" is for the first person, and "will" is for the second and third, then all of those government regulations that use "shall" are referring to the writer and not the reader. I'll have to try that next time I'm hauled into court: "The law says 'all drivers shall register their vehicles'." "Your honor, according to Strunk, "shall" is only used in the first person, so I assumed that referred to your car, not mine." Let's see how that works.
"They" refers to a plural antecedent, unless you're talking about someone and don't want to reveal their gender. This comes up in a scene in Chasing Amy when a lesbian character unsuccessfully tries to hide from her lesbian friends that she's in a relationship with a man. "Why do you keep using 'they'?" "Another one bites the dust!"
I owe a huge thanks to Strunk for pointing out that "unique" means "without like or equal," and not "unusual." We're bombarded daily with people who describe things as "very unique." This trend should be resisted as firmly as possible.
Strunk gives an example of bad writing, which has received a much-needed update from what I assume was the original from 1918, an increase in accessibility at the expense of personality. I liked the guy who passed "a helluva weekend in N'Yawk viewing the Columbia game from behind a bumbershoot and a glazed cornea." Is he talking about hunting, and if so, what did he hope to bag with an umbrella?
This particular edition is graced with many delightful drawings by Maira Kalman, who manages to illustrate phrases and parts of speech that normally are not illustrated. Her artwork gives the book a more lighthearted tone than what I had associated with a collegiate composition class. "The Elements of Style," however, is not intended solely for academic or business writing - the Internet has, if nothing else, given everyone an opportunity to write as much as they want; for example, here on Amazon, anyone who has an opinion about a product can share it with the world, and an application of the principles in this book would go a long way toward making this writing clearer and more effective.