Good Loving Woman

Good Loving Woman

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July 1, 2013 , , , ,

It’s the birthday of American grammarian William Strunk Jr. (1869), born in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was an English teacher at Cornell for 46 years, and edited works of Shakespeare and James Fenimore Cooper. In 1918, he self-published a little book for the use of his students, called The Elements of Style. It was a 45-page volume intended, according to Strunk’s introduction, “to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention … on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated.” He revised it in 1935; and in the late 1950s, one of his former students, the writer and New Yorker editor E.B. White (Winnie the Pooh), revised and reissued the 1935 edition. It’s now colloquially known as “Strunk and White.”

The Elements of Style is full of helpful advice to aspiring writers and students everywhere. In it, one may find such wisdom as, “Instead of announcing what you are about to tell is interesting, make it so,” and “Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.”

American author Dorothy Parker once wrote: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second-greatest favor you can do for 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 happy.” (The Writer’s Almanac)

Excerpts from Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White (1918):

“The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by. A writer is a gunner, sometimes waiting in the blind for something to come in, sometimes roaming the countryside hoping to scare something up.”
“Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.”

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