Book Review: William Strunk Jr. &E.B. White’s “The Elements of Style”

So I’ve realized that there’s a pretty big desire amongst my readers for more reviews of skill books. I’ve got quite a few of these books on the shelves, some I’ve read from cover to cover over and over again, some led me down a bad path and a very, very few have been both interesting and useful like The Art & Craft of Fiction: A Practitioner’s Manual.

I’m going to correct my mistake starting today with the (in)famous “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.

Where to begin? I first purchased the book shortly after finishing up with school because there was one area that myself and my professors both agreed I was seriously lacking as a writer and that was punctuation. I wanted a style book that I could literally memorize if I had to and there’s nothing quite as appealing as the absolutely tiny The Elements of Style” for that purpose.

The Elements of Style” is also widely paned as a skill book for exactly that reason. Its far too easy to learn bad habits from this appealingly short style book. Not only is it a somewhat controversial book with both supporters and detractors (a book doesn’t get 4 editions and survive in print for nearly 100 years if it doesn’t have it’s supporters) but it’s controversial nature means anyone following it’s style ‘advice’ will run into people who absolutely hate its rules and in an internet age you’ll be sure to hear all about them. If getting emails from self professed ‘grammar nazis’ isn’t your cup of tea then I’d suggest avoiding this one altogether.

In the end I regretted the purchase and the time I wasted studying this particular book. I can’t honestly recommend it to eager young novelists or even elementary kids for that matter. It’s wiser (if not easier) to pick up a giant tome and learn the correct forms to begin with rather than having to unlearn the wrong ones later.

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