Does This Count?

Hello, I’m tentatively writing to say that I finished book #38 of the year. It’s tentative because it was a short book, required reading for the publishing institute (which starts next week!), and because I’m not sure I would have read it on my own… except upon further consideration, I know that I would’ve eventually read this book for entertainment either way, so it counts. Glad I sorted that out.

The book is The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. I feel like everyone has at least heard of this book. I remember taking a Grammar class at Iowa, and the professor absolutely loved belittling this book and proving the two authors wrong whenever possible. I’ve been interested in reading it ever since.

For the most part, it was straightforward and contained useful information. Like I said, the book is short (only 85 pages plus a glossary), and divided into 5 main sections comprised of several brief chapters. It starts with punctuation, but also covers composition, misused phrases, form, and style.

I consider myself a pretty good writer (though Strunk might disagree because of my lack of brevity, as indicated by these often too-long blog posts). But this book reminded me of mistakes that I often make, from major (and embarrassing) apostrophe misuse, to the more subtle use of the semicolon.

My English Grammar professor often pointed out the contradiction between some of the rules in this book, so I couldn’t help but notice those. These authors are vehemently against the passive voice, but so many classic books (including the one I just finished) frequently use passive voice. Strunk and White, even, give an example of a different rule using the passive voice. Come on, guys.

I’m mostly kidding. The book is written cleverly and succinctly, making this an interesting read against the odds. I don’t know that I’ll live religiously by every Elements of Style rule, but I can definitely see myself referencing it often.

Plus, it clearly taught me something; this is my shortest blog post yet. ◊

9. Do not affect a breezy manner. The volume of writing is enormous, these days, and much of it has a sort of windiness about it, almost as though the author were in a state of euphoria. ‘Spontaneous me,’ sang Whitman, and, in his innocence, let loose the hordes of uninspired scribblers who would one day confuse spontaneity with genius.”

– page 73

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