The Elements of Style

The Elements of Style

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by William Strunk
     
 

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You know the authors' names. You recognize the title. You've probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. The revisions to the new edition are purposely kept minimal in order to retain the book's unique tone, wit, and charm. A new Glossary of the grammatical terms used in the book provides a…  See more details below

Overview

You know the authors' names. You recognize the title. You've probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. The revisions to the new edition are purposely kept minimal in order to retain the book's unique tone, wit, and charm. A new Glossary of the grammatical terms used in the book provides a convenient reference for readers. The discussion of pronoun use is revised to reflect the contemporary concern with sexist language. In addition, there are numerous slight revisions in the book itself which implement this advice. A new Foreword by Charles Osgood reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered. This book has conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of "the little book" to make a big impact with writing.

Editorial Reviews

bn.com
A fundamental resource for writers, editors, and students since 1959, the slim volume known simply as "Strunk and White" distills the combined wisdom of Cornell University English professor William Strunk Jr. and legendary New Yorker writer E. B. White. Though there are other books on the market that delve more deeply into matters of grammar and style, this is the best single source for anyone who desires a pithy, lively guide to the essentials of effective writing. In prose that is itself a paragon of clarity, the authors indicate how to apply the basic principles of grammar and punctuation, how to properly construct a sentence and a paragraph, how to use words and expressions in their proper form and context, and how to avoid the mistakes and mannerisms that make for turgid, pretentious, or simply unintelligible writing. Even professionals who have achieved expertise in the art of written communication will want The Elements of Style nearby at all times for support and inspiration.
Boston Globe
No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume.
Booknews
This edition of the classic guide to lean, vigorous writing includes a new glossary of grammatical terms and has been revised to update references in examples and to reflect contemporary usage. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"So friendly, so classic, so delightful . . . Kalman has taken 'the little book' and made it even more elegant and uplifting."
-Los Angeles Times

"While The Elements of Style has never lacked fans or dutiful adherents, appreciation for this slim volume has taken a turn toward the whimsical and even surreal."
-The New York Times

"The pictures are playful and subtle, which suits the spirit of this beloved bestseller."
-USA Today

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781604597820
Publisher:
Wilder Publications
Publication date:
06/17/2009
Pages:
72
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.17(d)

Read an Excerpt


Chapter 2: Elementary Principles of Composition

12. Choose a suitable design and hold to it.

A basic structural design underlies every kind of writing. Writers Will in part follow this design, in part deviate from it, according to their skills, their needs, and the unexpected events that accompany the act of composition. Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. This calls for a scheme of procedure. In some cases, the best design is no design, as with a love letter, which is simply an outpouring, or with a casual essay, which is a ramble. But in most cases, planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing. The first principle of composition, therefore, is to foresee or determine the shape of what is to come and pursue that shape.

A sonnet is built on a fourteen-line frame, each line containing five feet. Hence, sonneteers know exactly where they are headed, although they may not know how to get there. Most forms of composition are less clearly defined, more flexible, but all have skeletons to which the writer will bring the flesh and the blood. The more clearly the writer perceives the shape, the better are the chances of success.

13. Make the paragraph the unit of composition.

The paragraph is a convenient unit; it serves all forms of literary work. As long as it holds together, a paragraph may be of any length-a single, short sentence or a passage of great duration.

if the subject on which you are writing is of slight extent, or if you intend to treat it briefly, there may be no need to divide it into topics. Thus, a brief description, a brief book review, 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 division will improve it.

Ordinarily, however, a subject requires division into topics, each of which should be dealt with in 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 that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.

As a rule, single sentences should not be written or printed as paragraphs. An exception may be made of sentences of transition, indicating the relation between the parts of an exposition or argument.

In dialogue, each speech, even if only a single word, is usually a paragraph by itself; that is, a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker. The application of this rule when dialogue and narrative are combined is best learned from examples in well-edited works of fiction. Sometimes a writer, seeking to create an effect of rapid talk or for some other reason, will elect not to set off each speech in a separate paragraph and instead will run speeches together. The common practice, however, and the one that serves best in most instances, is to give each speech a paragraph of its own.

As a rule, begin each paragraph either with a sentence that suggests the topic or with a sentence that helps the transition. If a paragraph forms part of a larger composition, its relation to what precedes, or its function as a part of the whole, may need to be expressed. This can sometimes be done by a mere word or phrase (again, therefore, for the same reason) in the first sentence. Sometimes, however, it is expedient to get into the topic slowly, by way of a sentence or two of introduction or transition.

In narration and description, the paragraph sometimes begins with a concise, comprehensive statement serving to hold together the details that follow.

The breeze served us admirably.

The campaign opened with a series of reverses.

The next ten or twelve pages were filled with a curious set of entries.

But when this device, or any device, is too often used, it becomes a mannerism. More commonly, the opening sentence simply indicates by its subject the direction the paragraph is to take.

At length I thought I might return toward the stockade.

He picked up the heavy lamp from the table and began to explore.

Another flight of steps, and they emerged on the roof.

In animated narrative, the paragraphs are likely to be short and without any semblance of a topic sentence, the writer rushing headlong, event following event in rapid succession. The break between such paragraphs merely serves the purpose of a rhetorical pause, throwing into prominence some detail of the action.

In general, remember that paragraphing calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them. Therefore, breaking long paragraphs in two, even if it is not necessary to do so for sense, meaning, or logical development, is often a visual help. But remember, too, that firing off many short paragraphs in quick succession can be distracting. Paragraph breaks used only for show read like the writing of commerce or of display advertising. Moderation and a sense of order should be the main considerations in paragraphing....

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What People are saying about this

Wall Sreet Journal
"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."
From the Publisher
"So friendly, so classic, so delightful . . . Kalman has taken 'the little book' and made it even more elegant and uplifting."
-Los Angeles Times

"While The Elements of Style has never lacked fans or dutiful adherents, appreciation for this slim volume has taken a turn toward the whimsical and even surreal."
-The New York Times

"The pictures are playful and subtle, which suits the spirit of this beloved bestseller."
-USA Today

The New Yorker
"The book remains a nonpareil: direct, correct, and delightful."
New York Times
"Buy it, study it, enjoy it. It's as timeless as a book can be in our age of volubility."

Meet the Author

William Strunk, Jr. first used his own book, The Elements of Style, in 1919 for his English 8 course at Cornell University. The book was published in 1935 by Oliver Strunk.

E. B. White was a student in Professor Strunk's class at Cornell, and used "the little book" for himself. Commissioned by Macmillan to revise Strunk's book, White edited the 1959 and 1972 editions of The Elements of Style.

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The Elements of Style 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 49 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At $3.99 this is staple of the writer's toolkit is undoubtedly a necessity. I've probablty replaced it twice in my years of writing, classes, etc. I was, however, incredibly underwhelned at the paltry, completely worthless sample that was offered up, especially for the newcomer... A table of contents, an intro, and a few pages does not a sample make, gentlemen.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Every writer needs this book in their hip pocket or Nook.
sporkdelis More than 1 year ago
Really just the basics of puntuation and writing structure. I've already learned something I mess up all the time... or at least I suspect that I do. Very easy to understand, doesn't have the typos that the project gutenberg version has, and you don't need the more modern examples from the 2011 version. Punctuation doesn't change whether you're talking about the beetles or vaudeville. This version says it's 2010, so if there were any changes last year theres probably no one following them yet.
WTVCrimeDawg More than 1 year ago
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.
BookLoverInNeLA More than 1 year ago
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.
RBHolb More than 1 year ago
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).
Queen_Of_Hearts More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this book and I would recommend it to anyome who's having trouble with composition or anything to do with writing...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lots of examples..cannot read any of them...even with magnifying glass or moving to grossly enlarged type. This is disappointing.
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kwetzsteon More than 1 year ago
This little book is a must. Short and sweet it recaps common grammar and all punctuation in an easy to understand and apply format. The author makes it a fun read as well using humor and sarcasm to ease writers. I love the chapters on brevity in writing.
Jordana_fletcher More than 1 year ago
Years ago an English writing teacher required this book as part of her basic curriculum and it changed my life. This small book took my writting from poor to outstanding in a matter of weeks. I recommend this short guide to anyone who needs to write a sentence for any reason.
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