03 May 2009
THE WRITTEN WORD: Strunk and White "Elements of Style"
I still have the yellow-paged, dog-eared, highlighted and asterisked copy of The Elements of Style I purchased as a college freshman 30 years ago. My copy is a third edition and cost $2.95.
This venerable book current celebrates a golden anniversary. This slim volume contains a lot of sound style advice, and like many writers, I've used this book as my composition bible. Whenever people ask me for writing advice, I suggest they get three books: this one, and also Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.
Affecting a breezy tone
I had been mentioning The Elements of Style in conversations with fellow writers and editors, because one piece of advice (Number 9: "Do not affect a breezy manner.") seems to have fallen by the wayside. So much copy I read now affects a breezy manner; and I myself have taken to the idiom in some circumstances.
Exceptions to every rule of style
Inside the front cover, I long ago stuck a Post-it-Note with a quote that refutes a rule of style that advises against ending a sentence with a preposition. The quote is from Winston Churchill: "That is a structure up with which I will not put."
Revealing something of the Self
Here is one of my favorite quotes from Strunk and White, highlighted 30 years ago: "Every writer, by the way he uses the language, reveals something of his spirit, his habits, his capacities, his bias. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation--it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito."
Particularly in the age of blogs.