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Strunk and whites elements of style essay

But he and his professor and their poisonous little book and their legion of devotees virtually ensure that it will not happen. By Bill Wyman Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe Possessed, suddenly, for reasons I'll go into below, of a brand-new copy of Strunk and White's freshman-English perennial, The Elements of Style, I creased it open and my eyes fell on this paragraph from chapter four, "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused": Not to be used in the sense of 'happen,' 'come to pass.

  • The king of Scotland at this time was Duncan;
  • If there is a comma placed in the middle of a sentence before a word, such as and or but, there are two separate clauses in that sentence;
  • White is a book which talks about rules of the English language;
  • I was suddenly struck by the artificiality of so many language "rules," and by the zeal with which they're enforced by so many;
  • When you say something, make sure you have said it;
  • Today no self-respecting writer would be without one, and many can quote whole sections of it word for word.

But I don't think "transpire" means what Strunk and White say it means, and after a quick reacquaintance with their book I came to the conclusion that they were way off on a lot of other issues as well.

I was suddenly struck by the artificiality of so many language "rules," and by the zeal with which they're enforced by so many. Everyone's an expert these days; if you end a sentence with a preposition you're going to have Sneed on your case, or at least a letter-to-the-editor writer.

  • Not to be used in the sense of 'happen,' 'come to pass;
  • Legend has it that the wire services and daily newspapers don't use it to save space in narrow columns, but this may be apocryphal;
  • Lundgren makes a strong case, but in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that women are not the only group, or sex, for that matter, with a ligitimate grievance;
  • One could not ask for a more vulgar violation of the final rule of the chapter;
  • He wrote clearly and correctly, and then he killed people;
  • They don't mean to, of course, nor does the league of little language cops loitering about on literary street corners with their ears pricked up to catch an infraction.

Through such a barrage a skeptic wanders at some risk, but I'd like to try. The Elements of Style was originally a privately published volume written by one of E.

The year was 1919. White, 40 years later, wrote a charming memoir for the New Yorker about the book and the writer; Macmillan publishers saw the article and commissioned White to revise the book for general circulation. Strunk was long dead; White's memoir became the new book's introduction.

The first edition of Strunk and White's Elements of Style was published in 1959. It was immediately popular, garnering reviews of the sort usually reserved for Jack Kemp in the Wall Street Journal or Meryl Streep generally.

The New York Times is quoted on the cover of the second edition, which came out in 1972: It's as timeless as any book can be in this age of volubility.

Today no self-respecting writer would be without one, and many can quote whole sections of it word for word.

My three editions have sat yellowing on a shelf for some time, but recently the thing was forced back on my attention: I dutifully ordered it, and now find myself with trade-paperback editions of not only The Elements of Style but also The Elements of Grammar, written by someone named Margaret Shertzer, and The Elements of Editing, by Arthur Plotnik, the editor in chief of American Libraries magazine, the house organ of the Chicago-based American Library Association.

These latter two books, aside from their titles, are made to resemble The Elements of Style by their strunk and whites elements of style essay of a similar sans serif typeface on the covers, which also have emblazoned on them this message: Margaret Shertzer is nowhere identified in her book, and after reading it I've concluded it's because the name is a pseudonym.

I certainly wouldn't have allowed my name to go on a book so mystifyingly wrongheaded and riddled with errors and misconceptions. For a start, the book is mistitled: The whole affair is such a low-budget operation that I can't say I was surprised when I happened upon this legend on the title page: The book begins with a trenchant look at the difference between "functional" and "dysfunctional" compulsiveness on the part of editors.

Plotnik recalls one dysfunctionally compulsive colleague who spent valuable time on deadline "searching for ps with amputated descenders. A single incorrect letter or number in the code can produce thousands of lines of incorrectly set copy--a costly and time-consuming mistake.

Anyone who's spent any time in the playpens that now pass for newsrooms in many journalistic institutions will find much wisdom in this first chapter alone. The only thing that confuses me is why such a specialized book--Plotnik includes a section on libel and even an editor's guide to photography--is being offered as a general-interest work. A remark of Plotnik's brought me back to The Elements of Style: Recall Strunk and White's sample sentence for "transpire": My sample sentence is: As Strunk and White suggest, it originally had the meaning of "leak out," strictly in the literal sense: But soon people started using it metaphorically as well: But in the interim a new meaning had somehow sprung up--"transpire" for "happen" or "occur," which is what most nonmartians take the word to mean today.

Strunk And White's Venerable Writing Guide Is 50

The Fowlers campaigned against it in 1906, and now here are Strunk and White fighting the same tired battle 70 years later. That's called beating a very dead horse and selling it as prime cut to a lot of gullible freshmen. The title itself, ironically enough, contains one of the blurrings of meaning that the pair complain about. Words like "style," "usage," and "grammar" are thrown around a lot by language writers--primarily, it sometimes seems, as hocus-pocus to keep readers intimidated.

Strunk And White’s Elements Of Style

First there's a writer's style, which can be as wild, as calm, or as idiosyncratic as any person. On the other hand there's what is sometimes called "house style.

He had his prejudices, it is true, but next to Fowler's majesty most writers on language are pigeons. One of the problems with The Elements of Style is that it is actually a melange of writings on three subjects: Let's look at the book from each of these three perspectives. It is a complicated story, but it will suffice for our purposes to say that since the publication of Leonard Bloomfield's Language in 1933, modern linguistic theory holds that, 1 the real language is the spoken language; 2 to study language you have to study how people actually speak it; 3 languages change; and 4 any "rules" can be based only on current spoken usage.

Now, all this does not mean, as too many are quick to say, that "anything goes. The essential requirement for "correctness" isn't what E. White says it is but what gets the job done.

Some linguists maintain that a native speaker speaking naturally never makes mistakes. All the artificial rule making handed down by language creeps and schoolteachers only creates undesired effects: But the real battle ended, for all intents and purposes, with the publication of the great Merriam-Webster Third New International Dictionary in 1961.

Reading: Strunk & White, Language Police

The Third is the giant-sized unabridged displayed in most libraries. The Merriams, led by editor Philip Gove, dispensed with most of the prescriptivist nonsense of most dictionaries and made the world safe for "descriptivism"--which maintains that dictionaries should describe how people actually speak and write and not how certain people think other people should speak and write. The publication of the Third occasioned a rather sharp reception from the old guard, but things have calmed down in the last 25 years.

Still, "correct" usage is the badge most language cops wear as they police their turf. To me, the irony is that, if you think about it for more than a second, almost all usage dictates are pointless.

  1. As Richard Minear observes in his informative essay, "E. What really struck me the most was, obviously, how amazingly violent it was.
  2. We are well aware that an author's responsibility regarding the rules of sentence structure is waived in the reporting of dialogue.
  3. It is, of course, equally correct to write each of these as two sentences, replacing the semicolons with periods.
  4. The fourth edition rounds off many edges.

Languages evolve, gradually and ineluctably. They don't decay, devolve, or deteriorate; never in the history of the world has a language "died.

  1. This strikes me as a bit farfetched.
  2. The evil to be avoided is construed as feminine. Instead, he undertook an extensive revision of Strunk's work, a task for which he proved to be unsuited.
  3. By Bill Wyman Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe Possessed, suddenly, for reasons I'll go into below, of a brand-new copy of Strunk and White's freshman-English perennial, The Elements of Style, I creased it open and my eyes fell on this paragraph from chapter four, "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused".
  4. The elements that make up graphic design date back long ago, possibly even to times we do not know of, they include aspects ranging from simple Basic elements of structure and word categories 2850 words - 11 pages HEAD the element of any construction that must be present in order for the element to occur. When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not try to fight your way through against the terrible odds of syntax.
  5. If you don't write enough then the reader does not have enough information and if you write too much then the reader might be bored by it.

Their descendants speak French, Italian, Spanish, Rumanian, and more than half a dozen other languages, all of them quite serviceable. People speak a natural, uninhibited version of their language at a particular point in its evolution. If enough people are using a particular construction or using a particluar word with a "wrong" meaning to get themselves noticed by the language cops, the battle has already been lost.

Strunk and White disapprove of "hopefully" used at the beginning of a sentence to mean "I hope" or "it is to be hoped. To say, 'Hopefully, I'll leave on the noon plane,' is to talk nonsense.

At issue here is the almost unimaginable complexity of the English language. The position of words within the sentence can make for subtle and extravagant changes in sense: The very rational linguist Randolph Quirk, following the massive grammar by Otto Jespersen, cites the sentences "He naturally replied" and "He replied naturally. We mustn't say "six people" but rather "six persons," because "six people" minus "five people" equals "one people.

Writing/ Book Report On Strunk And White Element Of Style term paper 9050

Because they are "abominations. But on reflection the business begins to take on an air of surreality. Why, in 1979 the date of the last revision of the bookis one of the country's most famous journalists telling his readers not to use the word "fix" to mean "mend," as in "Hey, Dad, I've fixed my bike"?

Finally, the high point: My favorite, and the one I immediately thought of when White attacked "student body," is the Latin phrase res publica.

It's the word our "republic" comes from, of course. Res publica means the state, the government, public affairs generally, the commonwealth. It's one of the most redolent words in all of Western history.

But literally it means "the public thing," which sounds pretty vulgar. Thank God Strunk wasn't writing in the second century BC.

  • But in the interim a new meaning had somehow sprung up--"transpire" for "happen" or "occur," which is what most nonmartians take the word to mean today;
  • If there is a comma placed in the middle of a sentence before a word, such as and or but, there are two separate clauses in that sentence;
  • His Cornell--the school that taught E;
  • Everyone's an expert these days; if you end a sentence with a preposition you're going to have Sneed on your case, or at least a letter-to-the-editor writer.

As far as questions of "house style" go, Strunk and White are on more solid ground, but that may be because style questions are by definition a matter of preference. On the other hand, they rarely give the whole story, and don't make it clear how much of style is a matter of individual choice.

The first chapter, "Elementary Rules of Usage," is actually all about punctuation. Language writers are crazy about punctuation; if you are too, check out Eric Partridge's You Have a Point There, a tour de force. There are two kinds of punctuation: Strunk and White, of course, immediately zero in on the preferences and make it seem that the fate of the world depends on going by theirs.

Strunk and White's first rule is: Different publications have different rules for proper names that end in s; proper names of one syllable that end in s; proper names with an interior s sound as well as an s at the end; proper names that end in s but in which the s is silent; proper names that end in s but that are derived from Latin or ancient Greek or Hebrew; words that end in s and are followed by another word that begins with s; and--get ready for this one--a certain class of words that end with an s sound that don't get an apostrophe s when followed by a word that begins with s even though most other words that end with an s sound instead of the actual letter s do get one: Now, this is folderol, but so is Strunk and White's rigid pronouncement.

All of these conventions have sprung up for a variety of traditional and typographical reasons, but what matters most is consistency and ease of reading.

The second Elements of Style rule is similarly dumb: Legend has it that the wire services and daily newspapers don't use it to save space in narrow columns, but this may be apocryphal. My personal preference is to dispense with it in short phrases and include it in longer, more complex ones and elsewhere when it is helpful--as in the sentence "I had ham, bacon and eggs, strunk and whites elements of style essay orange juice for breakfast.

Some institutions--the Reader and the New Yorker, among others--make the writer's choice for him and insist on the series comma's use. One rationale I've heard for this is that it accustoms the reader to its presence, thereby allowing a writer to indicate, by its absence, that the second and third terms are standing in apposition to the first. This strikes me as a bit farfetched. And there is yet another preference: James Thurber, certainly as fine a stylist as E. White, is known to have disapproved of the comma after "red," arguing for "red white and blue.

The most important aspect of the whole debate, of course, is being consistent within a given work, but Strunk and White don't mention that.

Writing/ Book Report On Strunk And White Element Of Style term paper 9050

They're more interested in rules than they are in truth, or just plain common sense. Why is this so? Writers think they have a personal franchise on the language--and, of course, each does.