Review of Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style’

I saw this on a Social media post recently: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can give them is to present them with copies of ‘The Elements of Style’. The first-greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re still happy.” Dorothy Parker.
This provided the impetus to re-read this ‘little’ book. My copy of the 3rd edition is 88 pages, so we can read it in a couple of hours. It is time well spent for any writer.
Short prescriptive rules delivered by the grammar ‘Drill Sargent’ that is William Strunk Jr have passed the test of time. First published in 1918, the book still helps every student write clear, concise prose. Clear writing goes hand-in-glove with clear thinking and this book helps deliver both.
I had bookmarked favorite rules, like # 15, ‘Put statements in Positive Form’, or the rule on not using not. Rule # 14, ‘Use Active Voice’, a lesson every writer should learn. And my most quoted rule when critiquing work, #16, ‘Use definite, specific, concrete language’. ‘The surest way to arouse and hold attention of the reader is by being specific, definite and concrete’. I have always believed the very best fiction is delivered by knowing what specific details to include.
Strunk shows he cares about the reader, how the message of prose is received and that a writer must always think of that reader when delivering a sentence, paragraph or longer work. I would take it further to say the writer must always empathize with a reader and understand how their prose is received and experienced.
This is a great little book that every writer should read. I am constantly amazed at how many budding writers share work full of spelling and grammatical errors. Reading is meant to be an immersing experience, where the reader lives the thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams of the fictional characters. In the words of John Gardner readers ‘Sink into the dream of the story’. But it jars them out of that dream by spelling and grammar errors. Done too often, they will put down the story and not return.
I highly recommend this book and that writers learn and follow these rules.