The Elements of Style: The Original Edition [NOOK Book]

Overview

This classic reference is a must-have for any student or writer. In this brief handbook, Strunk identifies the principal requirements of proper American English style and concentrates on the most often violated rules of composition. Authoritative and engagingly written, this is simply the greatest book of its kind.

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The Elements of Style: The Original Edition

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Overview

This classic reference is a must-have for any student or writer. In this brief handbook, Strunk identifies the principal requirements of proper American English style and concentrates on the most often violated rules of composition. Authoritative and engagingly written, this is simply the greatest book of its kind.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486113708
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 3/7/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 64
  • Sales rank: 174,838
  • File size: 247 KB

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The Elements of Style


By William Strunk Jr.

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-11370-8



CHAPTER 1

INTRODUCTORY

This book aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. In accordance with this plan it lays down three rules for the use of the comma, instead of a score or more, and one for the use of the semicolon, in the belief that these four rules provide for all the internal punctuation that is required by nineteen sentences out of twenty. Similarly, it gives in Chapter III only those principles of the paragraph and the sentence which are of the widest application. The book thus covers only a small portion of the field of English style. The experience of its writer has been that once past the essentials, students profit most by individual instruction based on the problems of their own work, and that each instructor has his own body of theory, which he may prefer to that offered by any textbook.

The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript.

The writer's colleagues in the Department of English in Cornell University have greatly helped him in the preparation of his manuscript Mr. George McLane Wood has kindly consented to the inclusion under Rule 10 of some material from his Suggestions to Authors.

The following books are recommended for reference or further study: in connection with Chapters II and IV, F. Howard Collins, Author and Printer (Henry Frowde); Chicago University Press, Manual of Style; T. L. De Vinne, Correct Composition (The Century Company); Horace Hart, Rules for Compositors and Printers (Oxford University Press); George McLane Wood, Extracts from the Style-Book of the Government Printing Office (United States Geological Survey); in connection with Chapters III and V, The King's English (Oxford University Press); Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, The Art of Writing (Putnam), especially the chapter, Interlude on Jargon; George McLane Wood, Suggestions to Authors (United States Geological Survey); John Lesslie Hall, English Usage (Scott, Foresman and Co.); James P. Kelley, Workmanship in Words (Little, Brown and Co.). In these will be found full discussions of many points here briefly treated and an abundant store of illustrations to supplement those given in this book.

It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. When they do so, however, the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit, attained at the cost of the violation. Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules. After he has learned, by their guidance, to write plain English adequate for everyday uses, let him look, for the secrets of style, to the study of the masters of literature.

CHAPTER 2

ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's.

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles's friend
Burns's poems
the witch's malice


This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

Exceptions are the possessive of ancient proper names in -es and is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake. But such forms as Achilles' heel, Moses' laws, Isis' temple are commonly replaced by

the heel of Achilles
the laws of Moses
the temple of Isis


The pronominal possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and oneself have no apostrophe.


2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.

Thus write,

red, white, and blue
gold, silver, or copper
He opened the letter, read it, and made a note of its contents.


This is also the usage of the Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press.

In the names of business firms the last comma is omitted, as,


Brown, Shipley & Co.


3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas.

The best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is to travel on foot.

This rule is difficult to apply; it is frequently hard to decide whether a single word, such as however, or a brief phrase, is or is not parenthetic. If the interruption to the flow of the sentence is but slight, the writer may safely omit the commas. But whether the interruption be slight or considerable, he must never insert one comma and omit the other. Such punctuation as

Marjorie's husband, Colonel Nelson paid us a visit yesterday, or

My brother you will be pleased to hear, is now in perfect health, is indefensible.

If a parenthetic expression is preceded by a conjunction, place the first comma before the conjunction, not after it.

He saw us coming, and unaware that we had learned of his treachery, greeted us with a smile.

Always to be regarded as parenthetic and to be enclosed between commas (or, at the end of the sentence, between comma and period) are the following:

(1) the year, when forming part of a date, and the day of the month, when following the day of the week:

February to July, 1916.
April 6, 1917.
Monday, November 11, 1918.


(2) the abbreviations etc. and jr.

(3) non-restrictive relative clauses, that is, those which do not serve to identify or define the antecedent noun, and similar clauses introduced by conjunctions indicating time or place.

The audience, which had at first been indifferent, became more and more interested.

In this sentence the clause introduced by which does not serve to tell which of several possible audiences is meant; what audience is in question is supposed to be already known. The clause adds, parenthetically, a statement supplementing that in the main clause. The sentence is virtually a combination of two statements which might have been made independently:

The audience had at first been indifferent. It became more and more interested.

Compare the restrictive relative clause, not set off by commas, in the sentence,

The candidate who best meets these requirements will obtain the place. Here the clause introduced by who does serve to tell which of several possible candidates is meant; the sentence cannot be split up into two independent statements.

The difference in punctuation in the two sentences following is based on the same principle:

Nether Stowey, where Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, is a few miles from Bridgewater.

The day will come when you will admit your mistake.

Nether Stowey is completely identified by its name; the statement about Coleridge is therefore supplementary and parenthetic. The day spoken of is identified only by the dependent clause, which is therefore restrictive.

Similar in principle to the enclosing of parenthetic expressions between commas is the setting off by commas of phrases or dependent clauses preceding or following the main clause of a sentence.

Partly by hard fighting, partly by diplomatic skill, they enlarged their dominions to the east, and rose to royal rank with the possession of Sicily, exchanged afterwards for Sardinia.

Other illustrations may be found in sentences quoted under Rules 4, 5, 6, 7, 16, and 18.

The writer should be careful not to set off independent clauses by commas: see under Rule 5.


4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a co-ordinate clause.

The early records of the city have disappeared, and the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed.

The situation is perilous, but there is still one chance of escape.

Sentences of this type, isolated from their context, may seem to be in need of rewriting. As they make complete sense when the comma is reached, the second clause has the appearance of an afterthought. Further, and is the least specific of connectives. Used between independent clauses, it indicates only that a relation exists between them without defining that relation. In the example above, the relation is that of cause and result. The two sentences might be rewritten:

As the early records of the city have disappeared, the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed.

Although the situation is perilous, there is still one chance of escape.

Or the subordinate clauses might be replaced by phrases:

Owing to the disappearance of the early records of the city, the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed.

In this perilous situation, there is still one chance of escape.

But a writer may err by making his sentences too uniformly compact and periodic, and an occasional loose sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and gives the reader a certain relief. Consequently, loose sentences of the type first quoted are common in easy, unstudied writing. But a writer should be careful not to construct too many of his sentences after this pattern (see Rule 14).

Two-part sentences of which the second member is introduced by as (in the sense of because), for, or, nor, and while (in the sense of and at the same time) likewise require a comma before the conjunction.

If the second member is introduced by an adverb, a semicolon, not a comma, is required (see Rule 5). The connectives so and yet may be used either as adverbs or as conjunctions, accordingly as the second clause is felt to be coordinate or subordinate; consequently either mark of punctuation may be justified. But these uses of so (equivalent to accordingly or to so that) are somewhat colloquial and should, as a rule, be avoided in writing. A simple correction, usually serviceable, is to omit the word so and begin the first clause with as or since:

I had never been in the place before; so As I had never been in the place
I had difficulty in finding my way about. before, I had difficulty in finding my
way about.


If a dependent clause, or an introductory phrase requiring to be set off by a comma, precedes the second independent clause, no comma is needed after the conjunction.

The situation is perilous, but if we are prepared to act promptly, there is still one chance of escape.

When the subject is the same for both clauses and is expressed only once, a comma is required if the connective is but. If the connective is and, the comma should be omitted if the relation between the two statements is close or immediate.

I have heard his arguments, but am still unconvinced.

He has had several years' experience and is thoroughly competent.


5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma.

If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.

Stevenson's romances are entertaining; they are full of exciting adventures.

It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.

It is of course equally correct to write the above as two sentences each, replacing the semicolons by periods.

Stevenson's romances are entertaining. They are full of exciting adventures.

It is nearly half past five. We cannot reach town before dark.

If a conjunction is inserted the proper mark is a comma (Rule 4).

Stevenson's romances are entertaining, for they are full of exciting adventures.

It is nearly half past five, and we cannot reach town before dark.

A comparison of the three forms given above will show clearly the advantage of the first. It is, at least in the examples given, better than the second form, because it suggests the close relationship between the two statements in a way that the second does not attempt, and better than the third, because briefer and therefore more forcible. Indeed it may be said that this simple method of indicating relationship between statements is one of the most useful devices of composition. The relationship, as above, is commonly one of cause or of consequence.

Note that if the second clause is preceded by an adverb, such as accordingly, besides, then, therefore, or thus, and not by a conjunction, the semicolon is still required.

Two exceptions to the rule may be admitted. If the clauses are very short, and are alike in form, a comma is usually permissible :

Man proposes, God disposes.
The gate swung apart, the bridge fell, the portcullis was drawn up.


Note that in these examples the relation is not one of cause or consequence. Also in the colloquial form of expression,

I hardly knew him, he was so changed,


a comma, not a semicolon, is required. But this form of expression is inappropriate in writing, except in the dialogue of a story or play, or perhaps in a familiar letter.


6. Do not break sentences in two.

In other words, do not use periods for commas.

I met them on a Cunard liner several years ago. Coming home from Liverpool to New York.

He was an interesting talker. A man who had traveled all over the world and lived in half a dozen countries.

In both these examples, the first period should be replaced by a comma, and the following word begun with a small letter.

It is permissible to make an emphatic word or expression serve the purpose of a sentence and to punctuate it accordingly:

Again and again he called out. No reply.


The writer must, however, be certain that the emphasis is warranted, and that he will not be suspected of a mere blunder in syntax or in punctuation.

Rules 3, 4, 5, and 6 cover the most important principles in the punctuation of ordinary sentences; they should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature.


7. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject.

Walking slowly down the road, he saw a woman accompanied by two children.

The word walking refers to the subject of the sentence, not to the woman. If the writer wishes to make it refer to the woman, he must recast the sentence:

He saw a woman accompanied by two children, walking slowly down the road.

Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition, nouns in apposition, adjectives, and adjective phrases come under the same rule if they begin the sentence.

On arriving in Chicago, his friends met
When he arrived (or, On his arrival) in
him at the station.
Chicago, his friends met him at the
station.

A soldier of proved valor, they entrusted A soldier of proved valor, he was
him with the defence of the city. entrusted with the defence of the city.

Young and inexperienced, the task
Young and inexperienced, I thought
seemed easy to me. the task easy.

Without a friend to counsel him, the
Without a friend to counsel him, he
temptation proved irresistible. found the temptation irresistible.


Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous.

Being in a dilapidated condition, I was able to buy the house very cheap.

Wondering irresolutely what to do next, the clock struck twelve.

CHAPTER 3

ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION

8. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic.

If the subject on which you are writing is of slight extent, or if you intend to treat it very briefly, there may be no need of subdividing it into topics. Thus a brief description, a brief summary of a literary work, a brief account of a single incident, a narrative merely outlining an action, the setting forth of a single idea, any one of these is best written in a single paragraph. After the paragraph has been written, examine it to see whether subdivision will not improve it.

Ordinarily, however, a subject requires subdivision into topics, each of which should be made the subject of a paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal to him that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.. Copyright © 2006 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Elementary Rules of Usage
1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's
2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last
3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commans
4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a coordinate clause
5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma
6. Do not break sentences in two
7. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject
III. Elementary Principles of Composition
8. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic
9. As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning
10. Use the active voice
11. Put statements in positive form
12. Use definite, specific, concrete language
13. Omit needless words
14. Avoid a succession of loose sentences
15. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form
16. Keep related words together
17. In summaries, keep to one tense
18. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end
IV. A Few Matters of Form
V. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused
VI. Spelling
VII. Exercises on Chapters II and III
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2006

    Perfect!

    I am an english major at my college, and also a grammar nut, so it was more than appropriate that my husband purchased this updated edition for me as a Christmas gift. I love it! I wish that my professor's had assigned this text in English 101. I now recommend this to the students that I tutor in the Writing Lab. The explantions are graceful and so understandable. It makes grammar more approachable. I highly recommend this book. The updated edition is beautiful and actually really funny in the way it is organized. The illustrations are appropriate and helpful.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    Re: Anonymous reviewer

    "I wish that my professor's had assigned this text in English 101."

    As do I, considering that even after reading the book, you still don't know the difference between plural and possessive!! If this isn't the very definition of irony, I don't know what is.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2005

    Amazing!

    The wondrous illustrations add so much, er, COLOR to the already colorful text. White's estate was right: nobody else but Ms. Kalman could be trusted to illustrate this perenially useful tome. Now it is perenially gorgeous too!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 22, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Be Aware. I just received this book and there are several discre

    Be Aware. I just received this book and there are several discrepancies between the websites 'overview' & 'product detail'. The 'overview' indicates there is a foreword by Charles Osgood - this was missing from my copy. The 'product details' on the web indicate the publisher was Independent Publishing but my copy was published by Singer; the publication date was listed as 2013 but my copy was 2010; the number of pages indicated was 70 but my copy had 64. The ISBN # on the web does match the ISBN# on the book I received; therefore, B&N cannot replace the book with the one described on their website. Barnes & Noble cannot find any book matching the detailed description on their website.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The bible of English writing style.

    If you have a few more dollars, buy a more recent version--the standard of excellence in writing style--for this original is slimmed down compared to more recent versions by Strunk & White. Either way, The Elements of Style is indispensable, a must-have reference guide for any reader or writer.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good reference for writers!

    This book, complete with color illustrations, is a handy reference for any English 101 college student or freelance writer.

    Any writer will want this book nearby when attempting any writing project. If you're serious about writing well, you need to have a copy for your personal library.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 23, 2015

    When are people going to get over this book?  It is just a colle

    When are people going to get over this book?  It is just a collection of rules from decades ago.  It will no more teach you how to write than reading a list of ingredients will teach you how to cook.  There are so many better books out there.  Don't waste your time on this one (even if it is revered by generations).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    Good But Not Current

    I enjoyed this book, but I would recommend getting a more recent edition.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2013

    Can we be nook friends/ could you lend me this book?

    I would like someone to please lend me the book. Please reply with FRIENDS. Do we have to be friends for you to lend me the book?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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