Strunk And White's Writing Guide Reaches 50

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  • #1
Astronuc
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I heard this on NPR's Morning Edition this morning.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=103140512
Morning Edition, April 16, 2009 · The Elements of Style, the definitive writing guide by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr., turns 50 on Thursday. To mark the anniversary, its publisher has released an elegantly bound, gold-embossed hardcover edition containing notes about the book's history.

In 1957, White, who wrote the children's classics Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, rediscovered a brief guide to style by Strunk, his professor at Cornell University. White wrote an essay about it in the July 1957 issue of The New Yorker, introducing what would eventually become a bible for countless writers:

. . . .
If one wants to be a better writer, this is the book to read.
 

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  • #2
mgb_phys
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Not everyone agrees http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i32/32b01501.htm [Broken]
 
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If one wants to be a better writer, this is the book to read.
Never ask an artist to critique art.
 
  • #4
Not everyone agrees http://chronicle.com/free/v55/i32/32b01501.htm [Broken]

The author of that article seems to be a git.

Pullum offers that White and Strunk are clueless while seemingly being clueless himself.
He points out a section of the book which says split infinitives should be avoided and states himself that this has never been the case, ignoring the fact that this has been a huge topic of debate since about the time the book was published.
He says he has no idea why the authors would advise nouns and verbs should be used preferencially over adjectives and adverbs. It is a common and basic bit of writing advice that one should "show", as opposed to "tell", their reader what one wishes to convey.
Pullum chastizes White and Strunk for breaking their own rules and cites examples where it seems pretty obvious that the rules were ignored purposefully (and perhaps instructively). Pullum it seems would be the type to testily correct Churchill's quote "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put."

In the end the article simply seems to completely miss the point that there is a difference between technically correct writing and effective writing. There is quite alot of opinion about what constitutes "effective". The only real complaint that he may have is that White and Strunk are apparently rather bossy in their opinion of what is and is not effective.
 
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mgb_phys
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That's what I thought - the whole point of English is that you can split infinitives, make up words and bend the rules.
 
  • #6
fuzzyfelt
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To blithely split!
 
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This book is surprisingly useful for how concise it is.

I would recommend it.
 
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Redbelly98
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Pullum chastizes White and Strunk for breaking their own rules and cites examples where it seems pretty obvious that the rules were ignored purposefully (and perhaps instructively).

30 years later I still remember them saying to "avoid cliches like the plague". LOL
 
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Amazon has over 300 reviews and they are all positive.

After reading those reviews, I picked it up today.
 
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CRGreathouse
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I'm not a fan. I appreciate the need for good writing -- I paid for a very small part of my college through editing -- but this is more the fossilization of language than anything else. Prescriptivist nonsense at its more pervasive, if not worst.
 
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I'm not a fan. I appreciate the need for good writing -- I paid for a very small part of my college through editing -- but this is more the fossilization of language than anything else. Prescriptivist nonsense at its more pervasive, if not worst.

are you saying it's a guide for non-creative writing? technical non-technical writing, perhaps?
 
  • #14
Astronuc
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My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ford, was adamant about her students not ending a sentence with a preposition. That's one rule that has definitely stayed with me.
 
  • #15
Vanadium 50
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My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Ford, was adamant about her students not ending a sentence with a preposition. That's one rule that has definitely stayed with me.

Patron: "Can you tell me which shelf the books about butterflies are on?"

Librarian: "Never end a sentence with a preposition!"

Patron: "OK, can you tell me which shelf the books about butterflies are on, @#&^%$?"
 

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