Reviews

The Elements Of Style, by William Strunk Jr.

carlosmartinez's review

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3.0

Inevitably a bit stuffy and outdated, but worth the read for those that write regularly or take an interest in writing. The book can't quite decide whether it stands on the side of prescription or description. The problem with prescriptive grammar is that its fundamental premise is wrong. The problem with descriptive grammar is that it's already out of date by the time it's written down. You can find both problems in 'The Elements of Style', but you can also find some helpful and sensible advice.

julielbrownwrites's review

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5.0

If you write—for school, for work, or for a profession—this book should be in your personal library. Although less than one hundred pages, The Elements of Style spans a great deal: from grammar to misused words and phrases to style. I also love the timelessness of this book; the first edition was written in 1918.

I believe everyone can benefit from this book, but especially those who do not want to read tomes of grammar rules. This book will fit in your pocket or purse.

I only wish I had discovered it when I was in school.

zade's review

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5.0

Hands down the clearest, most useful guide to basic grammar and style. It's lasted forever, it seems, and it's still tops. I used to keep scores of copies so I could loan it to my freshman composition students without worrying about getting it back. I own a whole shelf of grammar and style guides (nerd alert!), but this is still my favorite.

roguephoenix's review

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I didn't give a rating for this book.

I explain why in my written review here ---> http://lunarticforbooks.tumblr.com/post/84390546904/book-review-2-the-elements-of-style-by-william

howifeelaboutbooks's review

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2.0

I'm one of those English majors who threw around "Strunk and White" knowingly, but had never read the book. So I decided to remedy that just a few years after graduation. As an English major, I think most of the knowledge in this book is things we learned in class, and therefore seems common sense to us. There is some interesting advice, but the rules I was the most unclear about were actually the ones that didn't have detailed explanations accompanying them, so that turned me off.

libraryneenja's review

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5.0

It's baffling to me that I had never read this. Somehow, it had slipped by me for years, even though I knew it existed, until today. I hadn't expected to laugh out loud reading this, but I did, more than once. The information provided is fantastic and so useful for improving writing, but the way things are said... Some of it was just really funny. Dry and dismissive in the best way. This is fantastic for so many reasons. I'm glad I stopped letting it slip by.

zelanator's review

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3.0

A useful guide, but a little dry.

jgkeely's review

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3.0

There must be some structure to language. We must agree on some aspects of it, and creating rules and definitions around those mutual agreements helps to foster intelligibility throughout the language.

Likewise, this agreement to abide by these rules means that we can teach communication. This does not mean only in the case of children, but it certainly simplifies it for them. This also means that writers can continue to learn, to interact, and to write understandably and not wastefully.

We take these rules from traditions, but also from common sense. Strunk's rulings on word use (especially amongst words with similar meanings) are based on the root words, and the original meanings. Strunk means to separate these similar words so that instead of synonyms, we have two similar but precise words.

This also prevents confusion, as various English dialects may take these words in different ways, but all share the same roots.

However, language changes constantly, so regulating it and placing rules on it is difficult. Many feel that it stifles creativity, or that it places hegemonic power in the hands of the elite. One benefit of this regulation is that we can read Shakespeare today with little trouble.

Dictionaries came into popularity around the time of Shakespeare, as did the study of philology. We have more trouble reading Chaucer, even though only two-hundred years separate Chaucer and Shakespeare, while twice that length separates Shakespeare from us.

The work of Strunk and White is not to close off language, nor to set it absolutely free, but to make a linguistic analysis of its forms, meanings and changes, but one that the layman can appreciate. The work is somewhat dated by today's standards, but this actually provides the perfect example for many of the book's observations on the mutability of language.

It likewise supports the assertion that language may change, but not as much as you might think. Strunk and White is just as useful to an author today as it was when it was compiled.

It is light-hearted and often humorous, and presents language and communication in a thoughtful way. Any writer should come away from this book with a new respect for language, and with a keener eye for seeing their own writing.

While the book sometimes seems severe in its regulations, this is only because misuse is so rampant and so ugly. Similarly, someone might tell you "under no circumstances should you balance on a chair on the edge of the roof of a ten story building". This rule is perfectly reasonable, despite the fact that some well-trained, adventurous individuals are quite capable of this feat.

The fact remains that for the majority, violating these simple rules will result in an unsightly mess. A talented and experienced writer can flaunt and even break the rules when it suits him. The greatest writers do, and this book gives examples of how and why they do it.

However, rules are how we create meaning. Whether you follow them or break them, you must know them and understand how they work in order to communicate to your reader. You cannot subvert and idea unless you understand it, and you cannot communicate anything to your reader that doesn't have a basis in their experiences and understanding.

There is no impressive act of creation that is not conscious and considered, because rebellion cannot happen in a void. It's the rule that proves the exception.

abrossoie's review

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5.0

E.B. White is one of my idols.

jakek's review

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5.0

Is there any other guide? Not in my opinion.