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4.7 out of 5 stars
The Elements of Style
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2006
This is the most precious book I have ever read. I have learned from it in few hours what I could not learn in more than 12 years of schooling. In particular, it is a little book about how everyone must write in English, and I emphasize on the words ‘little’ and ‘must’ for reasons you will know as soon as you start reading the book.
The book contains 11 elementary rules of usage, 11 elementary principles of composition, a few matters of form, and a list of words and expressions commonly misused that establish the, not a, solid ground, of plain English style in brief space. All these rules and principles are given by William Strunk Jr. in the form of sharp commands, who is appropriately strongly self-confident of his approach to English writing style. The book is enriched by the revision of E. B. White and his addition of a chapter on writing. The author strongly argues that the main elements of correct English style are “cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity”, with a very strong emphasis on the latter. Under Strunk’s sixth principle of composition, Omit Needless Words, he writes:
"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."
I liked Strunk’s audaciousness and self-confidence of presenting his view on the topic. He also has a very nice sense of humour, which he had probably never intended. My favourite example is his strong criticism of how the word ‘hopefully’ is used.
"This once-useful adverb meaning “with hope” has been distorted and is now widely used to mean “I hope” or “it is to be hoped.” Such use is not merely wrong, it is silly. To say, “Hopefully I’ll leave on the noon place” is to talk nonsense. Do you mean you’ll leave on the noon plane in a hopeful frame of mind? Or do you mean you hope you’ll leave on the noon place? Whichever you mean, you haven’t said it clearly. Although the word in its new, free-floating capacity may be pleasurable and even useful to many, it offends the ear of many others, who do not like to see words dulled, or eroded, particularly when the erosion leads to ambiguity, softness, or nonsense."
The Elements of Style is full of precious gems that are available to anyone who can read English. The book may be the cheapest to buy and I believe is the most concise and clear book you can ever wish for that teaches you the elements of style in English writing. It is a unique book that you must obtain whether English is you mother tongue or just another language that you speak, because it will teach you elementary principles of style that should be common to all human languages.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Roughly 80 years ago, William Strunk wrote a small textbook for students in his English Composition class. He wrote it with the intention of creation a short and accessible reference for his students, one of whom - E. B. White, author of the children's classic "Charlotte's Web" - would revise it almost thirty years later for publication to the general college market.

Since its inception, "The Elements of Style" has been the definitive text on clear written communication. It contains explicit guidelines that can easily be followed by anyone, and lays down the law in the form of 22 Elementary Rules of Usage and Elementary Principles of Composition (my favorite of which, "Omit needless words," I couldn't resist quoting in my own book).

Perhaps most importantly, from the perspective of the aspiring writer (who generally has neither an abundance of time nor money), the book is short (can be leisurely read in a couple of hours) and inexpensive (affordable for even the starving student).

This book is highly, highly recommended for anyone who considers taking pen to paper.

Danny Iny

Author of "Ordinary Miracles - Harness the power of writing and get your point across!" (ISBN 1-4116-7252-6)
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2003
The second edition of this classic work improved on the first edition, and the third was the best of all. It was perfection. The fourth, posthumous edition slips a little bit. It's still better than any other style guide, but a hint of Political Correctness has crept into some of its advice and examples. Why did the publishers feel the need to tinker with perfection? If you already have the third edition, don't bother getting the new one. If you don't have any copies of this great book, check the used bookstores for the previous edition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2010
I love this book because it talks about the elements of style of good, old-fashioned English. In the past, I've been disappointed by reading some books which appear to promote slangy styles in the name of current usage and wanting to 'fit-in'. Thankfully, this book sticks to the proper rules, many of which we learnt in school and thereafter quickly forgot while communicating with the mostly grammar-hating crowd on the net.

I must admit I was dismayed when I first held this book - it appeared much too slim to contain anything substantial; while quickly scanning through it, it also appeared to be too basic. But when I actually started reading it, I realized that the author has managed to pack quite a lot of information in this slim volume (it also makes it easy to carry in your bag while commuting, especially for those who use public transit).

The information is presented in concise, no-nonsense style, unlike many chatty-sounding books where the information is buried in a volume of unnecessary talk. If you're the kind that prefers the latter, then this book is not for you.

I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 only because the format looks too textbooky. While this works for me, I do know several people who need a more enterprising and colorful presentation. This minor detail, however, must be overlooked considering the fact that it was originally published in 1920, when the style of presentation was different from what it is now.

All in all, it's a great book, but if you're looking for a frivolous read, this is not it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2001
Twenty-one years ago, a professor in one of my English Lit. classes brought out a book that was NOT one of those texts that you thought you were going to have to take along into the next life in order to finish it. The book was quite the opposite. It was a small 78 page publication that was no more intimidating than a comic book.
I was a student that needed help in my punctuation, word usage, and style. I hoped, as did all the students, that the day would come when we would be published. The professor said, "If you're ever going to make it in the writing field, this book will be your best guide. Stick to the principles mentioned in its pages and you will achieve your goals. That is, assuming you have any writing ability in you at all."
Currently, I am taking a refresher course through a correspondence school back East. Guess what book is part of their curriculum? You're right, it's The Elements of Style. This time I have given the book a strict credence, and in the next few months I will have my first publishing credit.
I believe, The Elements of Style, is still the best book on correct writing techniques there is on the market. It was so tweny-one years ago and it will be so twenty-one years from now.
M.D. Cummings
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 9, 2004
A pithy little handbook that gives rules and examples to help you avoid the most common mistakes in writing, plus some smart advice on the finer points by a renowned essayist and children's writer. It is by far the single most useful book on writing. But it is not the last word. For those who wish to go further, I recommend these books in addition to Strunk & White: The Prentice Hall Handbook for Writers, for a review of basic grammar and syntax; Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace, by Joseph M. Williams, for more detailed advice on constructing paragraphs; The Oxford Essential Guide to Writing, by Thomas Kane, for more general advice; and Garner's Modern American Usage, for intelligent, detailed, and up-to-date guidance on diction. All these books belong on the shelf of every serious writer.
(By the way, I agree with the previous reviewer that the third edition is slightly preferable to the current one.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon December 19, 2012
There's not much to be said about this one that hasn't been said by others. It's compact, precise, and, when appropriate, funny as hell. The only fault is that some 'guidelines' are presented as hard-and-fast rules, and while it has been updated in recent years, it's still a bit dated. But even then, The Elements of Style (****1/2) is a book I don't foresee ever leaving my bookshelf.
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I've placed this book in spot #5 in my Top 100 Programming, Computer and Science books:

http://www.catonmat.net/blog/top-100-books-part-one/

The Elements of Style is not exactly a development or coding book but a book on writing. To be a great developer you need to communicate clearly, simply and directly. Strong writing skills are essential to success. The book is just 100 pages long and you can read it in one evening. Re-read it every couple of months for full effect.

I first heard about this book in 2006 or so when I got serious about becoming a great writer, started blogging and wanted to improve my communication skills. It's the most cited book and I gave in and bought it. It's really good because you can read it in a few hours and learn a lot. I follow many of the rules and guidelines in this book. I used this book heavily when writing my own book Perl One Liners (http://www.amazon.com/dp/15932752). My book has been a nice success selling thousands of copies. All thanks to The Elements of Style.
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This is the classic book on how to write. If you've already read it, you don't need me to tell you how good it is. If you haven't, then stop reading this review and go get it--either online for free or in an inexpensive paper version. I'll just suggest three books to back it up on your shelf. Strunk and White is the best by far, but these will help you, too.

Kilian Crawford's Writing for the Web provides guidance and examples for successful online writing. Web readers have different expectations and attention spans and it takes different techniques to capture, hold and develop their interest in your message.

Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer provides strategy advice that ranges from "Nuts and Bolts" like "Begin sentences with subjects and verbs" to "Useful Habits" such as "Turn procrastination into rehearsal."

Mark Kramer and Wendy Call's Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writers' Guide contains advice from experienced writers and editors on a range of topics. The short chapter format makes it perfect for opportunistic reading by busy writers.

Who am I to make these recommendations? Some great writer, maybe? Nope. I'm a so-so writer who enjoys it, wants to be better at it, and needs all the help he can get. And I've read each of these books and learned something. My guess is that you will, too.

Feed your shelf and it will be there for you.
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I first encountered Strunk and White's 'Elements of Style' when I was an undergraduate, and I have been a fan of this book ever sense. Perhaps it is because of the excellent teamwork that is apparent on the pages between the master of language, William Strunk, and the master of narrative, E.B. White. How can you go wrong learning grammar from the likes of the author of such wonderful tales as Stuart Little?
During my English composition class as an undergraduate, we had to read this book twice, once at the beginning of the term, and again at the end. I have since referred to the pages so often that I am on my fourth or fifth copy, as the binding and pages have worn out from use. Long before books such as 'Woe is I' or 'Eats, Shoots and Leaves', this book, 'The Elements of Style' has held a certain pride of place in being useful, accessible and interesting in its presentation of a traditionally and typically boring subject - grammar and usage.
Among the pieces I re-read on a frequent basis is the list of commonly misused or abused words and phrases. Here is a list of easily corrected mistakes that the typical writer and speaker needs to keep in mind. Also, the suggestions for composition are gentle reminders that creativity and good craftsmanship need not be contradictory.
This is a wonderful gift and wonderful treat for oneself.
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