THE ELEMENTS OF Style BY Jr. WILLIAM STRUNK wiih Revisions, an Introduction, and a Chapter on Writing BY E. B. WHITE FOURTH EDITION New York San Francisco Boston London Toronto Sydney Tokyo Singapore Madrid Mexico City Munich Paris Cape Town Hong Kong Montreal .
COPYRIGHT © 2000, 1979. ALLYN & BACON A Pearson Education Company Needham Heights, Massachusetts 02494 All rights reseIved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo copying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Publisher. Earlier editions © 1959, 1972 by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. The Introduction Oliginally appeared, in slightly different form, in The New Yorker, and was copyIighted in 1957 by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc. The Elements of Style, Revised Edition, by William Strunk Jr. and Edward A. Tenney, copyIight 1935 by Oliver Strunk. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-l'ublieatlon Data Strunk, William, 1869-1946. The elements of style I by William Strunk, Jr. ; with revisions, an introduction, and a chapter on writing by E. B. White. - 4th ed. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0-205-30902-X (paperback). - ISBN 0-205-31342-6 (casebound) I. English language-Rhetoric. 2. English language-Style. 3. Report writing. I. White, E. B. (Elwyn Brooks), 1899- II. Title. PE140B.S772 1999 80B'.042-dc21 99-16419 CIP PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 16 08 09 .
Contents FOREWORD ix INTRODUCTION xiii 1. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE 1 L Fonn the possessive singular of nouns by adding's. 1 2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last. 2 3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas. 2 4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing an independent clause. 5 5. Do not join independent clauses with a comma. 5 6. Do not break sentences in two. 7 7. Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list of particulars, an appositive, an amplification, or an illustrative quotation. 7 8. Use a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption and to announce a long appositive or summary. 9 9. The number of the subject detennines the number of the verb. 9 10. Use the proper case of pronoun. 11 v .
vi] CONTENTS 11. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the gram- matical subject. 13 II. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION 15 12. Choose a suitable design and hold to it. 15 13. Make the paragraph the uriit of com- position. 15 14. Use the active voice. 18 15. Put statements in positive form. 19 16. Use definite, specific, concrete language. 21 17. Omit needless words. 23 18. Avoid a succession of loose sentences. 25 19. Express coordinate ideas in similar form. 26 20. Keep related words together. 28 21. In summaries, keep to one tense. 31 22. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end. 32 III. A FEW MATTERS OF FORM 34 IV. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED 39 V. AN APPROACH TO STYLE (With a List of Reminders) 66 L Place yourself in the background. 70 2. Write in a way that comes naturally. 70 3. Work from a suitable design. 70 4. Write with nouns and verbs. 71 5. Revise and rewrite. 72 6. Do not overwrite. 72 7. Do not overstate. 73 8. Avoid the use of qualifiers. 73 9. Do not affect a breezy manner. 73 10. Use orthodox spelling. 74 .
[vii CONTENTS 11. Do not explain too much. 75 12. Do not construct awkward adverbs. 75 13. Make sure the reader laiows who is speaking. 76 14. Avoid fancy words. 76 15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good. 78 16. Be clear. 79 17. Do not inject opinion. 79 18. Use figures of speech sparingly. 80 19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity. 80 20. Avoid foreign languages. 81 21. Prefer tIw standard to the offbeat. 81 AFTERWQRD 87 GLOSSARY 89 INDEX 97 .
Foreword by Roger Angell THE FIRST writer I watched at work was my stepfather, E. B. White. Each Tuesday morning, he would close rus study door and sit down to write the "Notes and Comment» page for The New Yorker. The task was familiar to him-he was required to file a few hundred words of editorial or personal commentary on some topic in or out of the news that week-but the sounds ofrus typewriter from his room came in hesitant bursts, with long silences in between. Hours went by. Summoned at last for lunch, he was silent and preoccupied! and soon excused himself to get back to the job. When the copy went off at last, in the afternoon RFD pouch-we were in Maine, a day's mail away from New York-he rarely seemed satisfied. <CIt isn't good enough," he said sometimes. "I wish it were better." Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time . .L ess frequent practitioners-the job applicant; the business executive with an annual report to get out; the high school senior with a Faulkner assignment; the graduate-school student with her thesis proposal; the writer of a letter of condolence-often get stuck in an awkward passage or find a muddle on their screens, and then blame themselves. What should be easy and flOwing looks tangled or feeble or overblown~not what was meant at all. What's wrong with me, each one thinks. Why can't I get this right? ix .
x] FOREWORD It was this recurring question, put to himself, that must have inspired White to revive and add to a textbook by an English professor of his, Will Strunk Jr., that he had first read in college, and to get it published. The result, this quiet book, has been in print for forty years, and has offered more than ten million writers a helping hand. White knew that a compendium of specific tips-about singular and plural verbs, parentheses, the "that"- "which" scuffle, and many others--could clear up a recalcitrant sentence or subclause when quickly reconsulted, and that the larger principles needed to be kept in plain sight, like a wall sampler. How simple they look, set down here in White's last chapter: 'Write in a way that comes naturally," "Revise and rewrite," "Do not explain too much," and the rest; above all, the cleanSing, clarion "Be clear." How often I have turned to them, in the book or in my mind, while trying to start or unblock or revise some piece of my own writing! They help-they really do. Tpey work. They are the way. E. B. White's prose is celebrated for its ease and clanty just think of Charlotte's Web-but maintaining this stan dard reqUired endless attention. When the new issue of The New Yorker turned up in Maine, I sometimes saw him reading his "Comment" piece over to himself, with only a slightly different expression than the one he'd worn on the day it went off. Well, O.K., he seemed to be saying. At least I got the elements right. This edition has been modestly updated, with word pro cessors and air conditioners making their first appearance among White's references, and with a light redistribution of genders to permit a feminine pronoun or female farmer to take their places among the males who once innocently served him. Sylvia Plath has knocked Keats out of the box, and I notice that "America" has become "this counuy' in a sample text, to forestall a subsequent and possibly demean ing "she" in the same paragraph. What is not here is anything about E-mail-the rules-free, lower-case flow that cheer fully keeps us in touch these days. E-mail is conversation, .
[xi FOREWORD and it may be replacing the sweet and endless talking we once sustained (and tucked away) within the informal letter. But we are all writers and readers as well as communicators, vvith the need at times to please and satisfy ourselves (as White put it) vvith the clear and almost perfect thought. .