Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Elements of Style - Back to Basics in Writing

I think it was my afternoon chore that made me go there. Old Skool, baby!

VH1's tribute to the 80s is a fave!
Since I had a Friday off (love it!), I promised my wife I would caulk our bathroom. Home handymen unite! So, I figured I would work to some tunes. I fired up the upstairs PC, logged onto Pandora and selected 80s tunes. Journey's "Open Arms," The Police's "Every Breath You Take," MJ's "Thriller." Classics.

I was in high school in the late 80s. Good times. All over my house I have reminders of those glory days: my books. I have loved books all my life. Some special ones scattered at random on my shelves have memories attached to them. On the bottom shelf I noticed my copy of The Elements of Style, 3rd Edition (1979).

Microsoft Office Images
When I was first learning to write, it was the book I relied on. It was required reading in my English class. Its pages are now yellow, the cover a bit frayed, but the wisdom inside it remains evergreen. The book's sections  read better than a list of 80s music hits:

  • Choose a suitable design and hold to it.
  • Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
  • Use the active voice.
  • Put statements in positive form.
  • Use definite, specific, concrete language.
  • Omit needless words.
  • Avoid a succession of loose sentences.
  • Express coordinate ideas in similar form.
  • Keep related words together.
  • In summaries, keep to one tense.
  • Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.
And these are only from the Second Section: Elementary Principles of Composition.
So, I think I will log onto Pandora again, select 80s and revisit the writing hit list above. If you've never read it, or like me simply haven't read it in awhile, dig it up and spend some time honing your craft.

Elements of Style on

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