Friday, June 10, 2011

Little Black Book

"Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."
--William Strunk Jr.

Brilliant! I love this quote and what it shows us of brevity and concise language. As my two critiquing partners can testify, this is not my strong suit, nor is grammar, punctuation or a myriad of other essentials. But they are just that, essentials of the English language and of good writing.

A friend of mine recently gave me a copy of Strunk and White's 'The Elements of Style'. If you don't have one of these gems or if it has been collecting dust on your shelf - grab it and crack it open. There is a wealth of knowledge in this tiny book. Allow me to give you a few examples:

Rule #19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity
Rule # 8. Avoid the use of qualifiers (Rather, very, little, pretty). Strunk refers to these as 'the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words.' Love it.
Rule #4. Write with Nouns and Verbs
Rule # 17. Omit unnecessary words. This rule inspired the above essay.

There is a list of misused words and phrases such as:
Disinterested, not to be confused with uninterested
Each and every one
In terms of; Of this phrase, Strunk says it is a 'piece of padding usually best omitted'.

The book also touches on the principles of composition, fundamental rules of grammar and usage and contains a glossary of terms. The icing on the cake is that this book is an enjoyable read, full of sound advice and clear cut directives. I love it. My recommendation? Do not walk but run to your nearest book shop and purchase this little black book, you won't regret it.


1 comment:

Angie Cothran said...

This is great Sara! I love to find great books on writing. LOVE rule #8 - those word seem like the vocalized pause words. Great post!

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