Time to Enlighten
Not many writers today recognize the famous pair, Strunk and White. So I’ll use this post to enlighten those who may have missed this awesome little book. This is dedicated to all those who don’t know Strunk and White from Funk and Wagnalls, or even Laurel & Hardy for that matter.
The actual title of the book is The Elements of Style; however, I’ve seldom heard it called anything but just Strunk and White.
William Strunk, Jr. was an English professor at Cornell University when he wrote The Elements of Style in 1918. He went on to have it privately published the next year. His only goal was for the volume to be used in-house for students at Cornell.
White Meets Strunk
A young E. B. White just happened to be one of those students at Cornell. White was obviously quite enamored with his professor because he never forgot Strunk. Many years later (38 to be exact), White was commissioned by the publishing house, Macmillan and Company, to revise and update the small book for the college market mainly – but also for the general public.
The revised edition sold over two million copies in 1959, and went on to sell more than ten million in the ensuing decades. A far cry from Strunk’s original goal. (Professor Strunk passed away in 1946.)
How could such a little book make such a powerful impact in the writing world? After all, hundreds of books have been written about grammar, style, and writing. White himself described it as a “forty-three-page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.”
Let’s face it. White pegged three essential ingredients for good (and even great) writing: cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity. And The Elements of Style encapsulates them all.
“Rich Deposits of Gold”
Strunk and White came into my life in my college days. The first copy I purchased shows the price as $1.95. (Oh yes, I still have it!) And as White said in his Introduction to the revised version, it contains “rich deposits of gold.” For me as a fresh, young, eager writer, that $1.95 was a small price to pay for what I learned within those pages. (I have a later copy with $3.95 on the cover. smile)
So what’s in this little book? See for yourself. You can get your own copy online. It’s so easy these days. You can even learn more about both of these men as well.
The endorsement on the cover from the New York Times states: “Buy it, study it, enjoy it. It’s a timeless as a book can be in our age of volubility.”
Follow that advice and you will be a better writer. Guaranteed.
Leaving a Legacy
For me, it’s not only the richness of the book, but the legacy that such writers as William Strunk Jr., and E. B. White have left in their wake. I admire them. I want to emulate them.
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