Looking into one of my College’s hallway recycling bins, as one does, I found a fourth edition paperback of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Arguably, for my generation, as Strunk died the year before I was born, this has been one of the most useful and inspiring books for any young writer or anyone seriously interested in writing.
There is no excuse for recycling this book. If you have multiple copies, as I do, then distribute them to your various workspaces – just seeing the book is a reminder of their suggestions on style. Or give a copy to someone who has not read or does not possess a copy. Give it to a used book store. But please don’t recycle it. This book is not a day-old newspaper, but a timeless guide to style, such as ‘be clear’ and do ‘not inject opinion’ (p. 79). True, they do not adhere to the Oxford comma, but as the authors suggest, if any rule is inappropriate in a particular case, don’t follow it. But you need to understand standard rules of good English composition before you can wisely choose to violate one. That said, I await my colleagues critiquing this blog for violating one or another of these key elements of style.
This short book is not just a must read, but a must read, keep, and endorse.
William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White (1935), The Elements of Style, Revised Edition. Copyright held by Oliver Strunk.