Wednesday 7 May 2008

BOOK REVIEW: Strunk and White "The Elements of Style"

I finally succumbed and bought myself a copy of the classic writer's tool Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style". It's an interesting little book; concisely written and with some good advice that can help us improve our writing. In five sections, it covers:

1. Elementary Rules of Usage (11 of them)
2. Elementary Principles of Composition (11 of them)
3. A Few Matters of Form
4. Words and Expressions commonly misused
5. An Approach to Style

This is real basic writing rules: reminding one of the difference between "its" (possessive of "it") and "it's" (contraction of "it is"). This book doesn't imply that one must rigidly write by the rules; but it does help to have some sort of guidelines for the rules before one begins to break them!

Under the section, "An Approach to Style" there are 21 reminders, including,:

a. Place yourself in the background: write so that the writing itself reveals your style; as you become more proficient in writing your writing itself will reveal your mood and temper
b. Write in a way that comes naturally: Write naturally to you; do not try to imitate anyone else's style; use phrases and words that come readily to hand, but do not assume that natural writing is also flawless writing.
c. Do not overwrite: guard against wordiness and flowery, ornate prose.
d. Avoid the use of qualifiers: rather, little, very, pretty and so on are likened to leeches that suck the blood from your words. Use a word strong enough to stand on its own.
e. Avoid foreign languages: borrow from another language if it is convenient or necessary, but be cautious of an exuberant use of foreign words.

and many more that are equally useful! I can see why its (sorry, I mean it's !) so highly recommended by such a diverse range of people.

Well worth the buy, and short enough not feel like a daunting, boring text book, it can only be a welcome addition to our writing libraries!

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