Still A Little Book
By Natalie Bright
E. B. White, author of Charolote’s Web, treasured a book he received from one of his professors at Cornell. The year was 1919 and the book had been privately printed by Professor William Strunk Jr. and “the little book” was well known on campus. Thirty-eight years later, Elwyn Brooks White polished, expanded and transformed the little book into a classic: The Elements of Style.
The last chapter lists suggestions and “cautionary hints” to help beginners “find the way to satisfactory style”. Here are a few:
*Place yourself in the background.
* Write with nouns and verbs.
* Do not overwrite.
*Do not overstate.
* Do not explain too much.
It was the little book that I turned to, not as a writer, but as a mother. My oldest son had to retake the English portion of the state test. He had passed the essay part, but had failed the multiple choice questions about editing. He was required to take the entire test over again. What is the best way to write a sentence? How can you choose A, B, C or D for an answer when they all seem right?
The only thing I could think of to help him was section two of The Elements of Style, “Elementary Principles of Composition”. We read aloud the incorrect sentences and then I had him write the correct one. Which is why I love this book. It has two columns; one way and the best way. I’ll let you know if our efforts paid off.
In the meantime, think about adding THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE to your writers reference library. It truly is a little gem of a book.