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The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition Hardcover – Oct 25 2008


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Amazon.com: 82 reviews
87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
A criticism of the edition, not the book July 6 2010
By Fuad Tabba - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
First of all, I want to make it clear that I love this book. I borrowed it from a friend a few years ago, which is why I thought it was high time I got my own copy. Unfortunately, once I did, I found that the actual quality of the printing of this edition is horrible. The paper feels cheap and the text looks as if it were poorly photocopied. You would definitely not expect this from an edition billed as "more durable and elegantly bound edition". The only good thing I could say about this edition is that the cover is indeed beautiful, which is a good thing if all you want is something that looks nice on a bookshelf.

I recommend the 4th edition instead.
101 of 111 people found the following review helpful
A beautiful edition April 2 2009
By Bryan Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up sometime in December, after having read the original edition online for free. I know it has been getting a lot of bad reviews citing greed and whatnot, so I thought I'd add my thoughts on this newest edition of the most useful primer on the craft of writing.

In my opinion, the biggest draw of this new edition is the cover. It's black and professional looking; The perfect compliment for your shelf of writing books. I would recommend this edition to anyone willing to spend a little extra for a copy that isn't likely to fall apart after a few dozen reads. Long after you feel you've mastered all there is, you will still find yourself dipping into this now and again as a refresher. The advice is timeless and this high-quality edition does it justice.

If you're a student or don't care about a nicely bound hardcover, you could do just fine getting the ~$10 softcover edition.
45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
Down to earth and helpful April 15 2009
By Suc Hamate - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's concise.
It's humorous.
It's straightforward.
It's well balanced and reasonably biased.
It's articulate and persuading.
It's just handy if you'd like to write in English.
All in all, it's a must buy.
28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A defense of Strunk and White May 28 2010
By SP - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Elements of Style is to contemporary writing what Aristotle's Poetics is to Western literature: it's so succinct that you don't realize at first just how much it has to tell you. It's easy to laugh when reading the table of contents; the thought of anyone summing up usage, composition, and style in so few chapters can seem like a joke. But once you read enough other books about writing--as I did this past year in university courses on linguistics, writing, and grammar--you realize that no other book gives such a wide range of advice with such depth. Best of all, perhaps, is Strunk and White's own style: simple, direct, and funny prose makes this book a gem (a favorite jab from the section about avoiding "a breezy manner" in one's writing: "'Spontaneous me,' sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the horde of uninspired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius.").

Then again, you probably don't need me to point out this book's greatness; over fifty years of popularity and the acclaim of writers much more accomplished than I am probably speak for themselves. But let me address some common complaints I've heard about the book:

(1) "It's dated." Those who make this complaint probably see the word "style" in the title and, before reading a word between the covers, assume that the book is a bossy manifesto on the English language's ever-changing styles. Strunk and White are writing not about the popular literary styles of their time--nor, for that matter, the times at which the book's other editions were published (note the reference to Toni Morrison's Beloved in one of the chapters)--but on the specific elements of nonfiction prose that have been relatively stable over the past couple of centuries.
(2) "Its advice is antiquated and overly prescriptive." Actually, not at all. The book encourages splitting infinitives, using the passive voice, and ending sentences with prepositions when doing otherwise would make a sentence sound "stiff" or "needlessly formal"; by comparison, many writing teachers I've had would mark down any paper I wrote that committed one of these so-called "sins" of style. Those who make this complaint about the book probably only read the table of contents and interpret its list of tips as parochial imperatives. Really, imagine if there were a chapter titled: "Usually avoid the passive voice, but sometimes don't." (The section on "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused," to be fair, does have some stodgy directives. Why is the word "contact" "vague and self-important"? Why can't the word "enormity" be "used to express bigness," as the usage section of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary suggests with unusual persuasiveness that it can? Then again, the book's explanation of the word "hopefully" is the most sane I've read.)
(3) "Strunk and White break their own rules in other parts of the book." See (2). Style is not a rigid set of rules that can never be broken; if Strunk and White occasionally deviate from these "rules," there is probably a reason behind their stylistic choice.
(4) "The book says nothing about sexist language." Well, actually, it does: see the section on "They. He or she." in "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused." But keep in mind that this is not The Elements of Political Correctness; writing an insensitive or prejudiced sentence suggests more of a moral deficit than an ignorance of good style. Then again, a peer in a writing class I took in college argued that the universal "he" (i.e., supplying male pronouns when the gender of the subject in question is uncertain, as in: "A writer should practice his craft every day.") is stylistically "more elegant" than most gender-neutral turns of phrase (e.g., "he or she," the plural "they," etc.). Of course it's true that a sentence like "A writer should practice his or her craft every day" sounds clunky, but there are almost innumerable ways to rewrite such a sentence with neither clutter nor discrimination; once you accomplish the apparently difficult feat of figuring out why sexist language offends people, The Elements of Style will show you how.
(5) "The book is hardly the 'writer's bible' that it's touted to be." What book is? If you're looking for more depth, the book you need is probably a linguistics or philosophy textbook; if you're looking for greater breadth, you probably need a dictionary. Other style guides will obviously touch on points that Strunk and White do not, but usually these other guides will address stylistic errors that are much less common than those found in The Elements of Style. As for where Strunk and White's advice overlaps with that of other style guides, few other guides explain things with such precision and force.

Those who need other justifications of this book's merits should also read William Strunk's introduction to the first edition, now reprinted in this edition. Once you do, buy this book, read it, and savor it. Keep it on the shelf closest to wherever you do your writing. Then sit down and start writing.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Beautiful Edition, But Handle With Care! May 1 2011
By Paige McCoy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Even people who haven't read through this book should know that it's the de facto manual for improving your writing. The information it contains is just as relevant today as when it was written.

Since the content of the book isn't any different this time around, let's talk about the edition itself. As some other reviewers have mentioned, this is a very attractive edition of The Elements of Style. Embossed lettering and a leatherette cover definitely make for a fancier copy than the basic soft and hardcover editions. Inside, it's beautifully printed with an easy-to-see contrast between paper and ink.

The biggest issue with this edition for me is how flimsy the paper is. This is essentially a reference book, but the paper's thinness makes me think it won't hold up to being thumbed through over time.

This would make a nice gift for a budding writer, or look good on a shelf if you don't plan to consult it often. For college students, professional writers or anyone else who might get heavy use out of The Elements of Style, go for one of the oversized paperbacks with the thick paper instead.


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