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"...a marvellous and timeless little book... Here, succinctly, elegantly and without fuss are the essentials of writing clear, correct English."
John Clare, The Telegraph
You know the authors' names. You recognize the title. You've probably used this book yourself. This is The Elements of Style, the classic style manual, now in a fourth edition. The revisions to the new edition are purposely kept minimal in order to retain the book's unique tone, wit, and charm. A new Glossary of the grammatical terms used in the book provides a convenient reference for readers. The discussion of pronoun use is revised to reflect the contemporary concern with sexist language. In addition, there are numerous slight revisions in the book itself which implement this advice. A new Foreword by Roger Angell reminds readers that the advice of Strunk & White is as valuable today as when it was first offered.This book has conveyed the principles of English style to millions of readers. Use the fourth edition of "the little book" to make a big impact with writing.See all Product description
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To give a few examples:
'Less than ten' is incorrect, whilst 'fewer than ten' is correct.
'This man, who is my friend,' is better written 'This man, my friend,'
'I should like tea' is usually correct, 'I would like tea' is usually not.
'Worthwhile' is best avoided altogether - not exactly incorrect but poor style.
And so it goes on.
I found this book moderately useful, although it does seem to concentrate on American English rather than UK English. Some of the advice doesn't apply on this side of the Atlantic. For example, we tend not to use `most' as an abbreviation of `almost' so we're not going to make the mistake of saying `most everyone' as many Americans do.
Some reviewers commented that the kindle version was hard to read, but I didn't have any problems with it. I think it must have been reformatted as a result of some early negative reviews.
On the whole this is a great book for anyone who's got into sloppy writing habits (like me). Stephen King recommends it in his book `On Writing' - and recommendations don't get much stronger than that. It's probably fair to summarise the message of the book by saying `express yourself in as few words as possible and be as precise as possible'.
Avoid the one with ISBN-13: 978-1480096257. The Elements of Style
The book itself is amazing though so I am split about the rating but I hope this can help others avoid the same mistake I did.
Edit: Amazon was very kind to help with a refund so I changed my rating to 5. I still hope others will buy the right version!
Naturally, it is a work of non-fiction (and about grammar no less!) So you won't find yourself on the edge of your seat or anything as you read it. But you will find it softly engaging and interesting and find yourself pulled into the mindset of those people who take grammar a good deal more seriously than most of us.
Particularly helpful is the fact that each recommendation comes with examples, so that you can see in practice what he is actually talking about, and that each part is not overly long, so you don't feel the need to reach for the metaphorical gun to put yourself out of your misery!
If you set aside the contents, introduction and appendix then this book is only 85 pages long, which I actually saw as a good thing. No doubt there are books on grammar that can quite happily be used as tables in their own right, but I wonder how many normal people actually read them?
It's a bit like Stephen Hawking's "Brief History of Time" in that owning a copy of such tomes doesn't automatically mean you have read them!
This one I have read. I honestly don't know if it improved my grammar much (oh ok I do...It didn't! I think you would need to make more than a casual study of this to really improve much). But the door is at least slightly ajar to seeing the light and perhaps, some day, also marveling at the difference between a conjunctive pronoun and a restrictive adverb (something which I have personally never heard of, but which I feel happy to allow some Grammar God to now lay claim too).
Overall, a book that is well worth your time.
So I am fickle and judged the book by its cover. It happens. It turns out that it's about WRITING style! Ha! So I sat on the jetty with my legs dangling over the water and the bridge from Oakland in the distance. And my life was quite literally transformed. I studied engineering at university and was never formally educated in writing style. This book laid out the rules with inimmitable lucidity. It's a small book, with limited words per page accompanied by lovely pictures. Yet it packs more in that space than you might imagine. Of course, that's the whole message in the book ... omit needless words!
My emails became shorter yet clearer, my writing improved in general; and I became a bit of a fussy reader! In general I was given the tools for the job (I didn't actually know what a semi-colon was before this!).
I mentioned it to the friend I was visiting in San Fran. 'Oh yeh, we all get recommended that at Columbia'. It turns out this is an absolute classic. I totes agree!
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