The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, has been in print for over fifty years and has helped over 10 million writers. With less than 100 pages, this book provides concise instructions and advice concerning grammar, composition, and style. You will probably find it in your local bookstore (or purchase online). If you write, it is worth the cost.

Here are some excerpts I found interesting. In the book, each rule or instruction is followed by explanation and examples.

Elementary Rules of Usage

5. Do not join independent clauses with a comma. Use a semicolon or period instead. If a conjunction is inserted, the proper mark is a comma. Example: It is getting late, and we cannot arrive on time.

9. The number of the subject determines the number of the verb.

10. Use the proper case of pronoun. Example: We (not “Us”) friends would rather walk than ride.

Principles of Composition

14. Use the active voice.

17. Omit needless words.

22. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.

Misused Words and Expressions

However: When this word comes first in a sentence, it means “in whatever way” or “to whatever extent.” Example: However you advise him, use caution.

Feature: A “hackneyed” word which “usually adds nothing to the sentence in which it occurs.”

Nauseous/Nauseated: The first means “sickening to contemplate”; the second means “sick to the stomach.” When you say “I feel nauseous,” this means you are having that effect on others.

An Approach to Style

Although there is “no infallible guide to good writing,” the book provides helpful instructions on writing style. Example:

4. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. “It is nouns and verbs, not their assistants, that give good writing its toughness and color.”

7. Do not overstate. “A single overstatement … diminishes the whole, and a single carefree superlative has the power to destroy, for the reader, the object of your enthusiasm.”

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About Ben Kwok

Ben is part of a church plant team establishing the Rouse Hill Church. He holds a Master of Divinity degree. Ben and his wife Diahanna live in Sydney, Australia with their four young children.

One Comment

  1. Jason Harris 9 April, 2009 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    Wow. Some awesome points there. Now I want to get this book.

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