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The Book Club

William Strunk, Jr.’s “The Elements Of Style”

Taken from http://www.coverbrowser.com/image/bestsellers-2007/1995-1.jpg.This is part of my “A Book A Week” endeavour, an extension of The Book Club I started on this blog when I was completing my National Service.

The book may be tough for those – like me – not trained in linguistics, and the rules may only make sense if they are applied actively, but it is a short and handy guide on the rules of usage and composition, form, as well as commonly misused words and expressions. I have been working to improve my writing, and these are some of the more applicable rules and principles for me:

1. Do not join independent clauses by a comma. “If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semi-colon … If a conjunction is inserted the proper mark is a comma”.

2. Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, end it in conformity with the beginning. The structure is therefore the topic sentence, development of the statement, before the final emphasis or statement of important consequence. This approximates to the structure taught, for content paragraphs in expository or argumentative essays, in schools, with: the topic sentence, the elaboration, the evidence, and the sum-up.

3. Use the active voice (“more direct and vigorous”) and put statements in positive form (“make definite assertions”).

4. Omit needless words. “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”.

5. Express coordinate ideas in similar form (“expressions of similar content and function should be outwardly similar”) and keep related words together (“the position of the words in a sentence is the principal means of showing their relationship”).

6. On “compare”. “To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances, between objects regarded as essentially of different order … to compare with is mainly to point out differences, between objects regarded as essentially of the same order”.

7. On “effect”. “As noun, means result; as verb, means to bring about, accomplish“.

8. On “however”. “In the meaning nevertheless, not to come first in its sentence or clause. When however comes first, it means in whatever way or to whatever extent“.

9. On “while”. “Avoid the indiscriminate use of this word for and, but, and although. Many writers use it frequently as a substitute for and or but, either from a mere desire to vary the connective, or from uncertainty which of the two connectives is the more appropriate. In this use it is best replaced by a semi-colon”.

About guanyinmiao

A man of knowledge lives by acting, not by thinking about acting. Carlos Castaneda.


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