July 1: Strunk and White Day
Today is the birthday of William Strunk, Jr.(1869-1946), the principal author of The Elements of Style. This book, also known as Strunk and White, is without a doubt one of the most influential style guides of all time, selling over ten million copies. Strunk originally published the book as an instructional pamphlet for his students at Cornell University in 1918. The book gained its great notoriety after it was revised and published by Strunk’s former student E. B. White in 1959.
The 11 Principles of Composition below are just a sample of the advice for writers found in The Elements of Style.
1. Choose a suitable design and stick to it.
2. Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
3. Use the active voice.
4. Put statements in positive form.
5. Use definite, specific, concrete language.
6. Omit needless words.
7. Avoid a succession of loose sentences.
8. Express coordinate ideas in similar form.
9. Keep related words together.
10. In summaries, keep to one tense.
11. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.
Assignment 1: Select one of the principles in the list above and explain why it is either good advice or bad advice for writers.
Assignment 2: What is your single most important Principle of Composition? In other words what do you think is the most important piece of advice that a writer can follow? State your advice as a rule; then, explain it in detail with showing examples where appropriate.
Quote of the Day: 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. –William Strunk, Jr.