I don’t know about you guys, but I practically used E.B. White (best known for his children’s books Charlotte’s Web and Stewart Little) and William Strunk Jr.’s Elements of Style, as my 11th grade AP English bible. Although this style guide was originally published in 1920, it remains one of the most influential reference books on style to this day. The Elements of Style has been updated since its original publication to accommodate changes in language and style; the most recent addition was published in 2009. This guide stresses the idea that you cannot break the rules until you learn them. As such, The Elements of Style organizes basic grammatical and stylistic rules in neat, succinct chapters that are incredibly easy to reference. My favorite thing about the book is that it’s so small, yet it contains so much information. I wrote about 40 essays for my AP English Language class in high school, and Strunk & White’s guide was always in my backpack, waiting to be referenced for those silly questions I was too afraid to ask a teacher. After frequently referencing this book for a couple of months, I felt comfortable enough with the rules to experiment with my writing style. I cannot thank The Elements of Style enough for its tremendous impact on my writing.
Here’s an excerpt from a section titled Omit Needless Words
|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.|
|Many expressions in common use violate this principle:|