The Elements of Style

Periodically on this site I’m going to recommend a book for you to read.  The first book I recommended was Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, in my opinion the Bible of all success books; today I’m recommending The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., Introduction by E.B. White; any writer—or civilian who wants to write so as not to be jeered or laughed at—should have a copy of this Masterpiece by his/her side.

William Strunk, Jr. was an English professor at Cornell University in the early part of the 20th Century.  He penned The Elements of Style in 1919 and self-published it for his students.  In his Introduction, first published in 1957, E.B. White, a former student of Strunk’s, said, “The book was known on the campus in those days as ‘the little book,’ with the stress on the word ‘little.’  It had been privately printed by the author.”  You can walk into any bookstore today and more than likely you’ll find it in stock; it’s one of the most successful backlist books ever published.

My paperback version of this great “little” book is only 78 pages, but, trust me, those 78 pages cover it all—all the rules to produce excellent writing are there; which begs the question Why study some huge tome when it isn’t necessary?  I find myself rereading it every time I start a major new writing project; I pick it up whenever I need to refresh myself on a point I’ve become fuzzy about.  I’ve gone through it so many times that it’s falling apart to the degree I really need to go out and buy a new copy.

As I said above, I’ll periodically be recommending books for you to read, but if the written word is important to you as it is to me, none of them will be nearly as meaningful to your work as The Elements of Style. After you read it for the first time, I’d like to hear from you, find out if the recommendation benefited you.  Will you do that for me?