The Elements of Style

William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
Longman Publishing, 1958; Fiftieth Anniversary Edition, 2008

Known to two generations of college students as Strunk & White, this highly prized manual first saw the light of day in 1918 as the work of William Strunk Jr, an English professor at Cornell University. In the 1950s his former pupil E. B. White revised and amplified his late professor’s rulebook. Lauded by the literati as one of the finest American essayists, White is better remembered today as the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little.

Like most style manuals, this one teaches by example. Take, for instance, the use of the colon: “Your dedicated whittler requires: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch” (wrong) versus “Your dedicated whittler requires three props: a knife, a piece of wood, and a back porch” (right).

In sections ranging from “Elementary Rules of Usage” to “Elementary Principles of Composition” to “An Approach to Style,” this succinct guide is filled with instructions and examples so vivid they beg for illustrations – hence a special 2005 edition of The Elements of Style, filled to the brim with pictures painted by artist Maira Kalman. If you’re interested in adding either version to your home library, click here or here.

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