Top positive review
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An important little book...
on 28 November 2007
"The Elements of Style" was recommended to me by Stephen King in his book "On Writing". I see it as basically filling in the gaps that King left in his book. King's book was more concerned with the practical matters of writing, whereas, TEOS is all about LANGUAGE and how to use it, which King only touched upon.
And this book certainly packs a lot of information and advice, especially given that it is only 85 pages long. It has five chapters. The first chapter is called ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE and contains eleven grammatical tips, from the use of commas and semi-colons to structuring of a sentence. The second chapter, ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION, is more about writing style and ways to keep your writing punchy and fresh. Chapter 3, A FEW MATTERS OF FORM, mostly concerns physical presentation of your work and may be more suitable to formal letter writing that fiction, but may be useful to other forms nonetheless. Chapter 4 is about WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED and includes some of my pet hates, including those who turn "I couldn't care less" into "I could care less", thus completely destroying the meaning of the phrase. I also learned a few new things from this section. The fifth chapter is called AN APPROACH TO STYLE and contains 21 general tips, or "reminders", about how to keep your writing consistent and stop it going bad. A lot of my description here sounds very general and vague, and makes most of the sections sound the same, but trust me that it all makes sense and has a point in the book that I just can't quite explain - I need a bigger vocab!
There are one or two minor problems with the book. For example, as Stephen King points out, it says that the most important part of a sentence should always go at the end - but is "With a hammer he killed Frank" really better than "He killed Frank with a hammer"? I don't think so, either. Also, it seems to me that a lot of this advice, particular when it comes to grammar, depends on your own comforts and preferences and those of your editor and/or publisher. That doesn't mean we should pay it no heed, but I do believe that you can quite easily get away with ignoring half of this book's advice and still be a respected, published writer.
But overall, an excellent little book that I think every writer should read, whether they are beginners or highly experienced. The writing style of Strunk himself is straightforward and formal, occasionally venturing into humour and informality, which means that you are likely to learn something by reading it, but unlikely to be bored while doing so.
Highly recommended to writers of all talents.