Elements of Style, Fifty Never Looked So Good

Fifty years ago today, William Strunk, and beloved children’s writer E.B. White,  published The Elements of Style, the definitive guide to writing in the English language. To celebrate the anniversary, the publishers have released an elegantly bound fiftieth anniversary edition. Known, and beloved or begrudged by students of English and composition writers alike, Strunk and White set the standard for good, clear, elegant writing. In an age, where twittering reduces our thoughts to a quik tweet, without much style or elegance, Strunk and White reminds me at least, of the power language possesses and conveys, when it is layed down on the page, with an eye for clarity and beauty. 

The Elements fo Style Fiftieth Annviersary Edition

The fiftieth anniversary edition allows us to not only see the rules that have remained over the last half century, but also gives us the opportunity to see what language rules have been abandoned – and to see if they have helped us communicate more directly. And while I target twittering as an example of the erosion of language, as a blogger, I can’t truly begrudge this new technological tool. It is, in the end, another evolution of how we communicate with one another – that leads inevitably, to changes in how we think about and use language. I’ve never been able to fully master all the rules of Strunk and White when writing, however, I find myself striving to achieve that ideal, nodding in agreement with the rules, happy to see others who take joy in the use and construction of the written word.

How fitting it is, that Strunk and White chose a title that mentioned style. For many of their suggestions for building a writing aesthetic, could also apply to building a fashion aesthetic. Take, for example, rule number twelve: Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. When on dresses, one must commit to the aesthetic of choice – anything less confuses your “reader.” For my part, I avoid tame colors, anything that suggests I am unsure of the look that I am wearing (even if I am experimenting with a new style.) I also think it means that one shouldn’t make apologies for one’s style: if it is the look you want, then cultivate it, make it translatable and clear. Then consider the rule, “omit needless words.: It’s a rule that reminds me of tips many fashion gurus are currently (and have been for some time) suggesting – that you should remove the last thing that you put on; this tactic is a way to edit and outfit, sot that it remains direct and elegant.

I have a theory: if we all read Strunk & White, would we be both, more fashionable and elegant, and more erudite writers? One can only hope…. 


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