Strunk and White


elements-of-style-600The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White has been a valuable tool for writers for years.  According to Brandi Reissenweber in the July 2013 issue of The Writer, however, it has its detractors.  According to them, Strunk and White’s clear and precise rules like “use the active voice” encourage writers to write in a dull, minimalist style.  Hmmmmm.  The minimalism I can see.  Following Strunk and White’s rules can produce spare prose but usually with a punch.

I’ve used Strunk and White for years but not exclusively.  As a freelance writer, I’ve had to become familiar with both The Chicago Manual of Style and The AP Stylebook.  I strive for clarity in my writing, the use of active verbs, and few adverbs.  I want my writing to be a smooth, enjoyable read as well as provocative at times, both fiction and non-fiction.

I’m curious to find out what my readers here think.  Do you use Strunk and White?  What do you like about their rules and what do you dislike?  If you don’t use Strunk and White, what do you use as a style and usage guide?

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6 responses to “Strunk and White

  1. I read Strunk and White once, between undergrad and grad school, and I liked it, but I haven’t really used it since. I also enjoyed Woe Is I by Patricia T. O’ Connor…and I suppose when I’ve had style questions over the years, I’ve just referred to the grammar textbooks I was teaching from. They all have something to offer, but it’s more fun to read a stylebook that also has personality. If the writers have an engaging voice, I’d say they’re worth taking advice from!

    • Thanks for your comment! I haven’t read some of the contemporary style books that focus on specific issues, and of course, my mind is completely blank for any examples at the moment. It’s fun when they enjoy popularity considering their subject matter. I don’t think Strunk and White falls into that category, though. If it has a personality, it’s a dry one….

  2. Cool post. S&W Elements of Style is a mainstay. The problem I have with it is that it’s a snore to read. I use it as a reference, but not often enough.

    • Mitch, I’ve read it a couple times, usually out of guilt. For my writing, I’m more concerned about the story and characters rather than my style. Then I start feeling guilty about that and drag out Strunk and White again…. Thanks for the comment!

  3. Good post. I used one years ago, but it has since disappeared. I look a lot of things up on the internet.

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