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Book Review: The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White (4/5)

30 Jan

This is one of those books that I feel I would have read if I majored in English. If I’d taken a writing course, I’d have read this. But, alas, it isn’t taught in Spanish literature courses or alongside Accounting. So I missed this ageless instruction manual of writing and picked up a copy at a used book sale. I ended up listening to a reading of it but I’m glad to have a paper copy that I can reference later when I need to.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

Summary from Goodreads:

This style manual offers practical advice on improving writing skills. Throughout, the emphasis is on promoting a plain English style. This little book can help you communicate more effectively by showing you how to enliven your sentences.

I was surprised how much of this I already knew from school. I guess that means I did get a good writing education after all! Or maybe these elements are more commonly taught now and I’m nothing special. They were all good reminders and I think this is a solid reference book. It’s worth reading through every once in a while just to remember how to structure an argument or sentences in general.

I was glad there was a section on parallel phrasing. I try describing this to people all the time and it doesn’t make sense to them. Strunk had a good way to describe it so maybe I’ll just hand people a copy of this book when I tell them to use parallel phrasing in sentence structure. I also really liked Strunk’s advice about how to arrange a sentence to put emphasis on the element that’s most important. That one was new to me and I think I’ll use it.

I found the section on spelling and the one on commas a bit hard to absorb while listening. I think if I’d been reading it, I would have gotten more from those sections. The narrator I had didn’t help, he was monotone and didn’t stress the parts that were different in the example sentences.

William Strunk Jr.
Image via Goodreads

The edition I listened to was narrated by William Bridgewater. I thought he was really terrible. He pronounced some words strangely (semicolon as sem-EE-ko-LON for example) and it distracted me from the narrative. He was also very monotone and had odd inflections that were, again, distracting.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book is worth revisiting from time to time. The advice in it is really solid and at such a short length, it doesn’t take a long time to look through it for a refresher.

A great little reference book that’s probably better read than listened to. Four out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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