Elements of Style

category: Book Reviews
by Alexis Leon



There are hundreds of usage and style books available in the market that teaches one how to write correctly in English, how to cite references, how to make the writing interesting and error free. The most comprehensive ones are tomes like The Chicago Manual of Style that run into thousands of pages. But among the myriad of the style and usage guides there is a small volume (105 pages) that has helped millions of people to write better.

This book—Elements of Style—teaches one the basics of grammar and usage in a very short time. According to Boston Globe, “No book in shorter space, with fewer words, will help any writer more than this persistent little volume.”

The book contains five sections in addition to a foreword, an introduction, an afterword, a glossary, and an index. The foreword is written by Roger Angell, stepson of E. B. White and an important figure in the world of American letters, where he recalls his memories about his stepfather and his writing habits.

The introduction is the one written by E. B. White for the 1979 edition. The introduction is an excellent essay on how to write effectively. White recounts his experiences with William Strunk, who taught him English and how he was entrusted with the task of revising and updating the little textbook written, published, and used by Professor Strunk for teaching English.

According to Professor Strunk, “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 sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. This book will help you to do just that—to make every word tell.

The first part of the book is titled ‘The Elementary Rules of Usage.’ It contains rules for the correct usage. Each rule is illustrated with examples and made clear using explanations and comments. The second part contains elementary principles of composition. It contains principles that will make one’s writing clear, concise, interesting, and precise.

Part III titled ‘A Few Matters of Form,’ deals with the correct use like colloquialisms, exclamations, heading, hyphens, margins, numerals, etc. The fourth part explains the correct usage of commonly misused words and expressions.

Part V (An Approach to Style) is about writing that is captivating, interesting and correct. It contains advice drawn from a writer’s—E. B. White’s—experience of writing. It contains invaluable wisdom on how to use words and sentences to create magic. This chapter is reveals the secrets of the great writers and what differentiates masters of the craft from the rest.

The afterword by Charles Osgood explains why this small book should be a constant companion of all writers. The glossary contains a description of the technical terms with examples. The index is thorough and helps in improving the readability.

This book should be the daily companion for anyone who writes for a living and, for that matter, anyone who write at all.

Book Details:

Amazon.comYou can order online at Amazon.

Copyright © Braintree Books. Reproduced with permission.


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4 Comments so far

  1. Amita | 29 October 2007, 13:29

    I have this book. Small but very handy and extremely useful.

  2. Alexis Leon | 29 October 2007, 13:34

    Amita: I can’t agree more…

  3. pallavi | 21 November 2007, 04:07

    I am a copywriter and this tiny book is a marvel by itself. Hardly read by Indians, but valued very much by advertising pros elsewhere… I
    Pallavi

  4. DHANALEKSHMY.S | 02 March 2008, 05:52

    An intelligent review.I am eagerly waiting for getting a copy from Modern Books TVM.