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Strunk & White's 'Elements of Style'

awnlee jawking

I read a twitter post claiming the above is available as a free download.

1) Does anyone have the details?
2) Would the conditions of the download permit Lazeez to add it to the writing guides available on the site?

AJ

Ross at Play

Welcome to the Dark Side. :-)

Ross at Play
Updated:

I found it at https://www.goodreads.com/ebooks/download/33514?doc=4283

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Would the conditions of the download permit Lazeez to add it to the writing guides available on the site?

Seriously, AJ, have YOU read it?

I suggest you ask Lazeez to hold off until after you come back and tell us you've managed to read the darn thing.
If you CAN manage to read it without puking, then, by all means, come back and recommend it be made available to others, if, and that is a very big IF, you still think that seems like a good idea.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

If you CAN manage to read it without puking


I scanned it. It's seems pretty clear, but rather skimpy.

I thought it odd that the very first thing (possessives) didn't include possessives of plurals.

btw, when I googled it, there's a free audio version available.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


I scanned it. It's seems pretty clear, but rather skimpy.


"OMIT. NEEDLESS. WORDS." And so they did.

ETA: Jokes aside, it is good basic guidance, even if many quarrel with bits and pieces. Some claim they are inconsistent even in their own examples, but I've never bothered to read through again and again to find out.

One could do a lot worse. (And as well or better, too.)

bb

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

I scanned it.

@Bondi Beach

I've never bothered to read through

I have tried to read it, more than once.

Is there anyone who has actually read it prepared to recommend it to others?

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Ross at Play
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I read a twitter post claiming the above is available as a free download.

The version written by Strunk alone and published in 1918 is now in the public domain.
The version by Strunk and White and published in 1959 is still protected by copyright.

Ross at Play

Geoffrey Pullum, professor of linguistics at Edinburgh University, and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002) has called it "the book that ate America's brain".

Geek of Ages

My recollection is that it is focused on a particular kind of nonfiction writing. Mr. White did not follow its recommendations in their entirety when he wrote his fiction.

Replies:   Ross at Play
robberhands

@Ross at Play

"the book that ate America's brain"

How could a book, which apparently no one ever read, eat so many brains?

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Geoffrey Pullum, professor of linguistics at Edinburgh University, and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002) has called it "the book that ate America's brain".

I think that largely speaks for the work. It's widely quoted, rarely used, and when it is, often with disastrous results.

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

How could a book, which apparently no one ever read, eat so many brains?

Because so many followed it's dictates, typically after being forced to read and follow it in high-school.

Ross at Play

@robberhands

How could a book, which apparently no one ever read, eat so many brains?

It is on almost every syllabus of almost every American university.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Crumbly Writer

I think that largely speaks for the work. It's widely quoted, rarely used, and when it is, often with disastrous results.

Sounds like it's one of those do-it-yourself guides.

Ross at Play

@Geek of Ages

Mr. White did not follow its recommendations in their entirety when he wrote his fiction.

Point taken, but E. B. White's best-known works of fiction, Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little, were written before his collaborations with Strunk.

robberhands

@Ross at Play

It is on almost every syllabus of almost every American university.

Does it mean some people actually read it?

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@robberhands

How could a book, which apparently no one ever read, eat so many brains?

See for yourself. It's only about 10K words long.
If you might write a zombie novel someday, try it out so you can write from experience. :-)

Replies:   robberhands
Ross at Play

@robberhands

Does it mean some people actually read it?

I presume at least some of the ten million copies sold were actually read by somebody.

Bondi Beach
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Is there anyone who has actually read it prepared to recommend it to others?


I have read it through. My earlier comment was badly written. (Paging Strunk! Paging White!) I meant that I had not re-read it closely enough to judge the claim that the authors are inconsistent in their advice.

My latest copy is the 2005 edition illustrated---yes, illustrated---by Maira Kalman. It's a reference work. Unillustrated it's only 75-80 pages or so and you could read it through if you wished. You could also read the Chicago Manual of Style (a somewhat longer work) through if you wished, but both are intended to be consulted rather than read to find out if the adverb killed the noun in the library or was the prepositional phrase the guilty party.

ETA: Yes, I would recommend it as a reference work, but to be considered along with others.

bb

Replies:   Ross at Play
robberhands

@Ross at Play

See for yourself. It's only about 10K words long.

I wouldn't want to feed a book which ate that many American brains. The book also wouldn't like it, given its obvious preference for fast food.

Ross at Play

@Bondi Beach

Yes, I would recommend it as a reference work

I've only realised today how short the original version was, the one which is now in the public domain.
IMO, that is part that contains the gems of advice that have made it so influential.
However, I would only recommend it with a big asterisk. It was written a hundred years ago and the language has changed a lot since then.

Some examples:
1. Would anyone today insist 'to-day' and 'to-morrow' should be written with hyphens?
2. Would anyone say 'any one' and 'every one' should be written as two words?
3. Would anyone say this sentence requires a semicolon: "I had never been in the place before; so I had difficulty in finding my way about"?

The reason given for #3 is a comma is used when joining two independent clauses with a conjunction, but a semicolon is required when they are joined by an adverb. I expect dictionaries did not classify 'so' as a conjunction a hundred years ago; they do to-day, or 'today', as I expect the pre-deceased among us would prefer.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Ross at Play


It was written a hundred years ago and the language has changed a lot since then.


Just like the Chicago Manual of Style has gone through many revisions, Strunk and White has too. Even the dictionary has new versions to keep up with changes.

It's not fair to criticize the original. Back then it may have been spot on.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

It's not fair to criticize the original. Back then it may have been spot on.

That is the point I was making when I said recommend "with a big asterisk".

I think the principles it suggests are all very good advice, for formal writing at least, but not necessarily for fiction.
My caution to others would be a number of the examples it gives are archaic and would be considered incorrect by modern standards.

Geek of Ages

@Ross at Play

Would anyone say 'any one' and 'every one' should be written as two words?


"You may select any one candy"

"The judges scored the contestants from one to five; every one was eliminated, and every five was given a head start in the next competition."

Ross at Play

@Geek of Ages

"You may select any one candy"
"The judges scored the contestants from one to five; every one was eliminated, and every five was given a head start in the next competition."

I can see I'll need to be careful with you. You could be a serious challenger to my reign as the Most Annoying Pedantic Nitpicker on the forums. :-)

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

"You may select any one candy"

Currently, "any one" and "anyone" are deemed to have to separate meanings and functions. White Skunk argued that "anyone" wasn't a valid usage because you couldn't combine them into a single word. It shows how much English usage has changed, and how formal this primitive usage guide is. It's apt of simple form letter compositions, but not really apt for more advanced writing, and especially not for fiction, where ALL rules are optional.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

It's apt of simple form letter compositions, but not really apt for more advanced writing, and especially not for fiction, where ALL rules are optional.


I really hope you're not arguing with me about this; I believe I made the exact same point (if less explicitly) a short while above.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Geek of Ages

@Ross at Play

The problem with being called pedantic is that it's extremely difficult to argue otherwise right back.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Geek of Ages

The problem with being called pedantic is that it's extremely difficult to argue otherwise right back.

We seem to have got our wires crossed.

I thought you understood what my first post meant (Strunk said 100 years ago that 'anyone' does not exist as a single word) and you found a ridiculous example, 'any one candy', to prove there are times that 'any one' would still be written as two words. :-)

Replies:   Geek of Ages
samuelmichaels

@Geek of Ages

The problem with being called pedantic is that it's extremely difficult to argue otherwise right back.


Indubitably.

samuelmichaels

@awnlee jawking

I would strongly advise against it. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/04/21/against-strunk-whites-the-elements-of-style/?utm_term=.05b300bc141f for some issues with S&W.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Geek of Ages

I really hope you're not arguing with me about this; I believe I made the exact same point (if less explicitly) a short while above.

Merely expanding on it. Not everyone who responds to your messages is picking a fight with you.

Replies:   Geek of Ages
Geek of Ages

@Ross at Play

Indeed; I was mostly just making a joke about being called pedantic, in response to your post making a joke about how you and I are pedantic 😎

Geek of Ages

@Crumbly Writer

Sure; I just usually expect that sort of thing to be prefixed with something indicating that agreement/expansion (like "Exactly" or "in that line of thought"). Leaving that out gives the impression (at least to me) of disagreement and/or attempted correction.

Ross at Play

@Geek of Ages

Indeed; I was mostly just making a joke about being called pedantic, in response to your post making a joke about how you and I are pedantic

That's a relief. I wasn't trying to pick a fight with you. :-)

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@samuelmichaels

See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/04/21/against-strunk-whites-the-elements-of-style/?utm_term=.05b300bc141f for some issues with S&W.


I'm no fan of Strunk & White (I'm that Chicago Manual of Style guy), but I stopped reading that essay when I read:

The arrogance here is breathtaking. None of us are perfect is a line from literature. It is uttered by Canon Chasuble in the second act of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895), possibly the greatest of all stage comedies in English.


Talk about arrogance. You mean to tell me that because it was used that way in a play it's right? I guess what I know about lie vs lay is garbage because of the popularity of the Bob Dylan song "Lay Lady Lay."

Ross at Play
Updated:

If I am to be consistent with other discussions we've had here I would need to say the relevant question should not be whether it should be posted as AJ suggested, but whether there is any reason why not.
I can see no valid reason for not including it in the resources the site makes available to authors.

If it is to be included it should be clear which edition is being made available. It should definitely be identified as:
Elements of Style (1918) by William Strunk Jr.

I think it would be helpful if the webmaster included a very brief note in front of the text. My suggested draft for that would be:

Note to SOL Authors from the webmaster

This book is being provided as a resource mainly because it is widely considered the most historically significant book of advice to authors.
However, it was published a hundred years ago and contains much advice which may not be considered appropriate by modern standards.
It also has what is called a "prescriptive" approach, which many authors consider unsuitable for fiction.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Thanks. I've downloaded the pdf. I might even read it one day to see what the dark-siders are twittering about.

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

whether it should be posted as AJ suggested


My original post was intended to be neutral. From the feedback, I get the impression that making it available as a site resource would not be particularly useful, except as a weapon of brain destruction to help further Kim Jong-Un's plans for world domination.

Still, at least there don't seem to be any legal reasons why Lazeez couldn't make it available.

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

I might even read it one day to see what the dark-siders are twittering about.

My prediction is you'll give up when you reach this little gem, if you even get that far.

Rules 3, 4, 5, and 6 cover the most important principles in the punctuation of ordinary sentences; they should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature.

Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

This book is being provided as a resource mainly because it is widely considered the most historically significant book of advice to authors.


Not true. It was written for students and is more about writing good English than writing (as in an author writing a literary piece).

However, it was published a hundred years ago and contains much advice which may not be considered appropriate by modern standards.


Then it's obsolete which is why there have been revisions. Why provide an obsolete reference manual?

It also has what is called a "prescriptive" approach, which many authors consider unsuitable for fiction.


Either it said, or I recently read it somewhere else, that many authors break grammar rules, but you need to know the rule before you break it. These are the rules you need to know; break them at your own risk.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

@Me
This book is being provided as a resource mainly because it is widely considered the most historically significant book of advice to authors.
@You
Not true. It was written for students and is more about writing good English than writing (as in an author writing a literary piece).

YES, it is targeted at students, etc. rather than authors of fiction. But if only 5% of the people who have read the section which is now in the public domain, then I would still say it is by far the most influential book of all time for authors of fiction.

@You
Then it's obsolete which is why there have been revisions. Why provide an obsolete reference manual?

Why not provide with a warning some parts are obsolete? It is only 10K words, and in amongst the chaff there are a lot of timeless gold nuggets.

Either it said, or I recently read it somewhere else, that many authors break grammar rules, but you need to know the rule before you break it. These are the rules you need to know; break them at your own risk.

I suspect the quote from Strunk you're thinking of is, "Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules."

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Ross at Play

I suspect the quote from Strunk you're thinking of is, "Unless he is certain of doing as well, he will probably do best to follow the rules."


Which I agree with 100%.

Why not provide with a warning some parts are obsolete?


Because if they don't know what parts are obsolete, how can they trust anything they read? If they know what's obsolete, they probably don't need the reference guide.

Ross at Play

@Switch Blayde

Which I agree with 100%.

I agree with you 100%.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

Because if they don't know what parts are obsolete, how can they trust anything they read? If they know what's obsolete, they probably don't need the reference guide.

I cannot argue with that, but my preference is still to give others information and let them decide - rather than making decisions for them.

richardshagrin

@Geek of Ages

pedantic

antics of a pedophile? A Ped antic.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

That's a relief. I wasn't trying to pick a fight with you.

Hey, we pedantic Grammarians need to stick together! I would, but I'm too busy collecting all my loose crumbly pieces that keep falling off.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Then it's obsolete which is why there have been revisions. Why provide an obsolete reference manual?

Uh, so you can post it online without to continually have to pay residuals for every page view it receives?

There are useful tools, but then there's the reality of what you can legally post on a public website.

Either it said, or I recently read it somewhere else, that many authors break grammar rules, but you need to know the rule before you break it. These are the rules you need to know; break them at your own risk.

Thanks. That's the line I kept repeating, until I got sick of repeating it. No 'rule' is ironclad, at least in literary fiction, but it helps if you understand the repercussions before you try violating 'common sense' restrictions.

It's not a matter of what's 'provable', it's a matter of realizing what might go wrong if you don't heed commonly accepted advice. But if you can make it work, then go for it. More power to you!

Crumbly Writer

@richardshagrin

A Ped antic.

Better than a Ped attic. If you're a young child, whatever you do, stay out of any Ped's attic (or van) they invite you into, regardless of the candy they might offer.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

but it helps if you understand the repercussions before you try violating 'common sense' restrictions.


What seems to be a 'common sense' restriction to some may seem absurd to others.

it's a matter of realizing what might go wrong if you don't heed commonly accepted advice.


Commonly accepted by whom? Publishing industry insiders? Academia? The general public?

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Dominions Son
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


but it helps if you understand the repercussions before you try violating 'common sense' restrictions.


What seems to be a 'common sense' restriction to some may seem absurd to others.

it's a matter of realizing what might go wrong if you don't heed commonly accepted advice.


Commonly accepted by whom? Publishing industry insiders? Academia? The general public?

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

Commonly accepted by whom? Publishing industry insiders? Academia? The general public?

They're not 'rules' set up by publishing insiders, instead their warnings from others who've run headlong into these same problems before. Thus authors, publishers, editors and designers will often all reinforce what to 'watch out for', often in very strident language.

The key, as I mentioned, is that if you're NOT going to follow that overly cautious advice, is to know the possible consequences before you dive in headfirst.

Again, no one has EVER argued that the restrictions are carved in stone, but you if your approaching a traditional publisher, you'd best be willing to defend your position, because you'll be asked to defend it repeatedly.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

They're not 'rules' set up by publishing insiders, instead their warnings from others who've run headlong into these same problems before.


That's individual opinions of individual authors, that's not "commonly accepted" anything.

If you are going to put something forward as "commonly accepted", then asking commonly accepted by whom is a fair question, and the answer needs to be a group or there is nothing common about it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

but it helps if you understand the repercussions before you try violating 'common sense' restrictions.


I used to write a lot of short sentences or fragmented sentences when I wanted a fast pace. Then some here said they hated choppy sentences (I think Ernest was one). You say you like long sentences where you actrually have to make them shorter. And Grammar Girl on her blog on fragmented sentences says there's a place for them in fiction, but not choppy sentences. So I now use them sparingly.

Well, I decided to check out Lee Child's writing style since my latest character is sort of like his Jack Reacher. I sampled the beginning of the first chapter of his first novel.

Wow! Talk about choppy sentences. It seems to work for him. I wonder if my fear of the repercussions got in the way of my writing style.

Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

I used to write a lot of short sentences or fragmented sentences when I wanted a fast pace. Then some here said they hated choppy sentences (I think Ernest was one).


Switch, I agree short sentences help with pacing, especially during action scenes. What I always complain about is the first reader style sentences some use in almost every situation. there are some stories here which read like - See Spot. See Spot run. See Spot run fast. See Spot at the door. - when they could just as easily say - See Spot race to the door.

My other pet hate is the fragmentation comma often used to split a locationary phrase from the main sentence. But we'll leave that for another discussion.

gmontgomery

I think in looking at S&W one needs to consider their target. The book was written in the day when good writers could make a living writing for periodicals and newspapers. The book wasn't written necessarily for fiction writers.

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

If you are going to put something forward as "commonly accepted", then asking commonly accepted by whom is a fair question, and the answer needs to be a group or there is nothing common about it.

The publishing industry at large (i.e. most publishers, agents, authors and editors). You always seem to get your nose bent out of shape when ANYONE asserts that there are 'commonly held' positions, by arguing that it's not carved in stone in the side of some mountain.

If you post on any publishing industry/writing forum and you'll get nearly the same responses, as you will if you consider the majority of articles in ANY magazine on writing. I consider that a 'collective viewpoint'. As opposed to yours, that 'nothing is true unless it's proven beyond refute' which is the collective opinion of only two people!

Replies:   Ross at Play
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

Wow! Talk about choppy sentences. It seems to work for him. I wonder if my fear of the repercussions got in the way of my writing style.

Keep in mind, a LOT of people absolutely despise Lee Child's writing style! Again, it works for him, but only undertake it IF you realize the possible repercussions. Instead, rather than using it consistently throughout a work (like Lee did), I'd only use it for select, fast-paced passages, so the effect is more pronounced, rather than appearing overused.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@gmontgomery

I think in looking at S&W one needs to consider their target. The book was written in the day when good writers could make a living writing for periodicals and newspapers. The book wasn't written necessarily for fiction writers.

As far as I know, it also wasn't taught in any literature classes (except by temporary teachers unfamiliar with the field). In general, it was taught to all the non-writing students as "THE" way to convey thoughts in published papers.

So, yeah, I'd say it has NO place in fiction. It's a decent starting point, as long as you realize much of it is flat-out wrong in many instances.

Switch Blayde

@gmontgomery

I think in looking at S&W one needs to consider their target. The book was written in the day when good writers could make a living writing for periodicals and newspapers.


I thought Strunk was a professor and wrote it as a cheat sheet for his students.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

Keep in mind, a LOT of people absolutely despise Lee Child's writing style!


The critics hate Dan Brown's writing, too, but I love it and follow it.

I actually thought Lee Child's writing was too choppy. But who am I to criticize his success. Did you know he has a classical education, learning Latin and Greek? And he got a law degree even though he never practiced law. He says it taught him to write concisely. And he worked in television for (I think) 10 years so he understood telling a story.

On Amazon's "Look Inside" feature, read about him in the first Jack Reacher novel. It's really interesting.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

As opposed to yours, that 'nothing is true unless it's proven beyond refute' which is the collective opinion of only two people!

Are you accusing DS of being a schizophrenic?
I demand proof of that assertion, however commonly accepted that opinion may be. :-)

Replies:   Dominions Son
Bondi Beach

@Switch Blayde

He says it taught him to write concisely. And he worked in television for (I think) 10 years so he understood telling a story.


And, as if one needed it, his "Reacher" novels are living proof that formula works. (That's not a criticism of formulas.)

bb

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Bondi Beach

In my opinion it says more about his ability to tell a good story than it does about his writing style.

AJ

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Ernest Bywater

I matters not if you support CMoS or S&W or the AP guide - all style manuals are written by a particular person, organisation, or group of people for a specific purpose applicable to what they want, and they choose what they feel is the best way to do it for their aims. Thus, they all have as much validity as any other.

The problem about suitability of one manual over another comes down to who did the better sales job on selling the use of their manual to other people. Some people feel certain style guides are handed down from God, but none are, and none are etched in stone with a requirement for all to follow them once you get outside the very specific group for which they were originally created.

Thus there is no need to argue about which is the right one, because there is no right one unless you want to sell to a specific market that designates one to use.

Dominions Son

@Ross at Play

Are you accusing DS of being a schizophrenic?


Hey, I resemble that remark!

So do I!

Me Three!

:-P

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

Hey, I resemble that remark!

So do I!

Me Three!

:-P


See three, P - oh!

AJ

Ross at Play

@Dominions Son

Hey, I resemble that remark!
So do I!
Me Three!

Me, myself, and I all laughed at that one.

Bondi Beach

@awnlee jawking

In my opinion it says more about his ability to tell a good story than it does about his writing style.


Roger* that.

bb

*That would be "roger" in the American use, not UK or Australia.

Ernest Bywater

@Bondi Beach

*That would be "roger" in the American use, not UK or Australia.


I do think you're confusing the UK slang usage of the word. Although we don't use Roger as much more than a name, the few times it's used in slang is the US usage of agreement.

PotomacBob

@Bondi Beach

If you try to follow all the American English rules of grammar and writing you will surely go mad. Write however you like. Your editor shall change your words at her sole discretion.

Replies:   Bondi Beach
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Bondi Beach

That would be "roger" in the American use, not UK or Australia.

I would say it means agreement in both BrE and AmE.
There is also a slang meaning of a man having sex in BrE.

I used ngrams to compare 'roger that' to 'roger her'. 'Roger that' is far more frequent in both BrE and AmE. 'Roger that' is more common in AmE than BrE, but not by much.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Bondi Beach

@PotomacBob

If you try to follow all the American English rules of grammar and writing you will surely go mad. Write however you like. Your editor shall change your words at her sole discretion.


See Ross's comment. And beware of rooting for one team or another in Australia while you're at it.

bb

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Bondi Beach

And beware of rooting for one team or another in Australia while you're at it.

You can do that Down Under too.

The only thing you need to beware of is that you are appropriately dressed for each type of occasion: 'to root for (a team)' you need to wear a guernsey or scarf with an odd colour combination, and 'to root (somebody)' birthday suits are usually best.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

There is also a slang meaning of a man having sex in BrE.


In view of a previous discussion about what having sex means, I would be more specific and say that it involves inserting Tab A into Slot B eg After choir practice, the Vicar was wont to insert his Tab A into the Choirboy of the Week's Slot B.

AJ

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