writing resources

Strunk and White: The Elements of Style.

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Writing resources are easy to come by. But good writing resources, ones that will truly help you improve your writing, can be difficult to scout out among the many books on writing that are available.

Originally published in 1959, The Elements of Style has been a fixture among writers who want to compose words with poise and clarity. Coming in at under one hundred pages, it’s a quick read packed with style tips, grammar usage, and general advice on writing.

The Elements of Style was the first writing book I ever owned. In sixth grade, when I was assigned my first term paper, one of the requirements was to use this book. It was only recently that I finally upgraded to the latest edition and read it in its entirety for the first time, and I was impressed beyond measure.

The Elements of Style

Of all writing resources, The Elements of Style is probably the most well-known. Since it was first published, it has helped millions of writers and is the only style guide that has ever graced the bestseller list.

William Strunk Jr., late professor of English at Cornell University, first wrote the book for his students. One of those students eventually became one of the most beloved writers of the twentieth century. E.B. White, author of such great literary works as Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan, was asked to prepare an edition of the book for the general public. He revised Strunk’s original work, added a final chapter, and The Elements of Style was born.

The story of this little book is fascinating – but its real value lies in the content.

Writing Resources You Can Actually Use

Most writing resources and style guides are presented as reference material. Using an index, you visit your resource only when you need to look up something specific. The Elements of Style is an interesting cover-to-cover read, one that you can easily finish in less than a day.

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.

– William Strunk, Jr. from The Elements of Style

The book is so small, you can carry it in your purse, your pocket, or keep it conveniently tucked in your laptop bag. Each chapter is concise and and quickly gets to its main point. There are no fancy introductions or lengthy explanations — just hard-and-fast tips, rules, and recommendations.

There are only five chapters:

  1. Elementary Rules of Usage
  2. Elementary Principles of Composition
  3. A Few Matters of Form
  4. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused
  5. An Approach to Style

Within these chapters, you will find answers to the most common and nagging questions that perplex writers at all levels, from the young beginner to the mature master. Plus there’s a handy glossary that provides definitions for terms used throughout the book.

Essential for Writers

There are plenty of useful writing resources available. Some of them are designed for general usage and provide readers with the straight facts about style and grammar. Others offer information for specialists (fiction or poetry writing, for example). Few are as useful or convenient as The Elements of Style, a book that every writer simply must possess.

Do you have a copy of The Elements of Style? Why or why not? What are some of your favorite writing resources?


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