The following article is a review of one of the most essential books on writing. Whether you are writing literature, blogs, or copy-writing, The Elements Of Style will always be handy to have in your back pocket.
I have gone through this wonderful book by William Strunk Jr. a few times now, and it has well ingrained in me the core principles of writing. Rather than having to explain rule after rule, The Elements Of Style enables the reader to understand the foundational principles of literature, and corrects commonly made violations of grammar.
Why is this book so important?
Many professional fields require communication through the form of writing. I guess I can leave it at that, but I’ll elaborate.
Your ability to communicate effectively by writing is a rare, and therefore valuable skill in any job market. In fact, some copywriters (those who write ads) make over six figures a year just by providing writing services. If you write well, and better yet, if you write with style, you will stand out from the rest of the pack. Plus, how annoying is it when you are communicating professionally with someone that has horrible grammar and spelling?
Read this sentence:
“Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?”
Tough, isn’t it? Of course, I’m being a bit extreme with that example, but you can see that the brain enjoys reading something that has normal cohesive grammar structures. Whenever something is grammatically wrong, you don’t consciously know what is wrong, but you will have difficult reading it, nonetheless.
In a sense, it is far more easier to notice poor writing than it is to write well.
Cut out the pretentiousness nature of grammar
We all know that grammar-Nazi. Why correct someone when you already know what they mean, you ask? Although it may seem like those who care about grammar are just tyrants ruthlessly enforcing unnecessary rules over you, they are just the radical-fringe of language preservationist. Most of us just enjoy seeing the English language used well, in a effective, and sometimes even beautiful way.
The reason I admire this work of Strunk so much is because of his ability to breakdown all the rules of language into the most pragmatic ones. His philosophy is, basically, learn the fundamentals, and then play with them so you may develop what he calls style.
The truth is, many of the greats in literature do not follow grammatical rules to the tee. They break the rules so that it may fit a certain narrative tone, and they do it purposefully.
Language is a changing landscape
The linguists Noam Chomsky, known as the father of modern linguistics, established that humans have innate linguistic structures built into their DNA. This means we are born to communicate with words. Every grammatical mechanism, therefore, fulfills a purpose in communicating an idea in our minds. If we do not effectively use these grammatical mechanisms, there is a void created, and ideas do not get transmitted effectively.
With the advent of social media, especially text messaging, the words we use daily has changed, but I believe the grammatical mechanisms are still intact. We even use emoji’s to express emotion now instead of using descriptive words. Even this kind of language needs the foundational structure in order to be effective, and it is the evolution of the language rather than the destruction of it.
The value of reading a book like The Elements of Style in this day and age is still apparent. We still need to learn why written language works and to use it effectively, in order to apply it to other platforms, like social media.
It’s more of an art form
Score: 4.5 out of 5.0
Writing is, essentially, a mix of art and structure. It is structure, in so that we need to have grammatical requirements for an idea to make sense, and it is an art because there is an huge amount of ways to do that. In The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. we can learn the structures that make the English language effective, and with a solid foundation, we can then create our own style and maybe even revolutionize it.