Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Review-- The Elements of Style Illustrated, Entrecard




The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White, Illustrated by Maira Kalman, Penguin, New York c2005. This is a truly wonderful book which makes an old classic even better.

I have seen a lot of blogs with heavy marketing and advertising prose. This book is about how to write, clear, concise, stylish prose. It was originally written in 1911 by William Strunk, Jr. an english professor who wanted to create a to the point book on how to write clearly. The book is considered a classic. Most writers claim to have read it. It is one of those books you are supposed to have read at least once.

His student, E.B. White took up the revision of the book in the second edition. This is the third edition. E.B. White is best known for writing the American children's classic Charlotte's web. He was also an essayist for the New Yorker. E.B. White further expanded the original book to include information on style. He wrote on how to design prose, form it into paragraphs, make the speaker identifiable in dialogue, and included sections on words to avoid like like, thrust, thus and other overused english.

The different between this book and other style books is that it is enjoyable to read. The examples used are entertaining. For example, the author writes "Be obscure clearly! Be wild in tongue in a way we can understand." He also exhorts people to first develop clarity, before deciding to use more flowery words. He uses many recognized people as part of his examples, Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, E.M. Forster, William Faulkner, and others. It is a truly literary work.

The Maira Kalman illustrations add to the quality of the work. They are mostly light and airy watercolors. The watercolors are of captions from the text. An example is, "Well Susan this is a fine mess you are in." Above this caption is a watercolor of a basset hound.

This book has helped many people improve the quality of their writing, making it more clear, precise and understandable. I am glad I had the chance to read the latest edition.

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6 comments:

Susie Kelly said...

Another entertaining book on English grammar is Collins Good Writing Guide by Graham King. 800 ages of wisdom written in a light-hearted way makes it the kind of reference book you can sit down and read for pure enjoyment.

Susie Kelly said...

Whoops, sorry, 800 pages, not ages! (The "P" key has fallen off my keyboard.)

Book Calendar said...

Thanks for the suggestion.

Mike French said...

The Elements of Style is without doubt one of the most useful books I have read. My fav in it is

"Omit needless words"

(The rest of this post was deleted after taking this advice)

JenWriter said...

I love The Elements of Style. Great book on writing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. I will make sure to read it as soon as possible.