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How could anyone...

Count Your Humble Blogger among those who are regularly surprised that people still think that Mssrs. Strunk and White have mostly good advice about The Elements of Style. Fond as I am of Mr. White actual writing (both his wonderful children’s books and his essays), his writing style benefits immeasurably from his ability to ignore Mr. Strunk’s advice, which he passes on to us. We should follow his example, at least in ignoring the advice, if not in passing the advice along.

So, when the illustrator of the new edition is quoted in the New York Times (Style Gets New Elements, by Jeremy Eichler) asking “how could anyone not have illustrated this before?”, well, in my own case, aside from not being interested in illustrating generally, having no talent for it, I specifically never illustrated The Elements of Style because I dislike the book.

To pick another example at random, William Hogarth never illustrated The Elements of Style because he died in 1764 and Strunk wasn’t born until 1869.

So, Gentle Reader, how could you not have illustrated The Elements of Style before? Submit your answers to the Tohu Bohu, remembering to Omit Needless Words, eschew the passive, do not contract, avoid beginning your sentences with and but or however, and heck, make up another pointless and arbitrary rule that has never been followed by any decent writer. Here’s one: ending a sentence with any word more than six letters long is an egregious grammatical violation.

chazak, chazak, v’nitchazek,
-Vardibidian.

Comments

I personally never illustrated The Elements of Style because I could never decide how to render the active voice effectively. Mostly reds? Manga-style action lines, or would that be over the top? Clearly !Captain Active! would be ideally rendered by Jack Kirby... Now THERE'S someone who should have illustrated boring academic yawn-fests for a living!

My new rule is that apostrophe's should alway's be used to precede a terminal "s."


i have never illustrated the elements of style because i languish in obscurity


*ahem*

Not to be a prescriptivist usage, but I believe you mean:

I personally never illustrated The Element's of Style because I could never decide how to render the active voice effectively. Mostly reds? Manga-style action line's, or would that be over the top? Clearly !Captain Active! would be ideally rendered by Jack Kirby... Now THERE'S someone who should have illustrated boring academic yawn-fest's for a living!

I never illustrated The Element's Style because I feel it would be more faithfully interpreted through sculpture kinetic. I started on the chapter's few first but was unable to secure an agent literary or funding to subsidize the time foundry necessary.

My rule new -- and it is not a rule new, merely a correction language our corrupt so as to return it to purity latinate -- is that adjective's should alway's follow the noun's they modify. This has the advantage additional rendering the construction 'of X' superfluou's.


Curse's.

Mostly reds? Manga-style action line's, or would...

Law Hartman's Retaliation Prescriptivist strike's again.


what impenetrable glockenspiel! epoxy on the englage languish.


And, gah! I missed S's terminal more in paragraphs two next own my.

It i's amazing how easy it i's to mis's all those word's connecting small like i's, a's, ha's, and wa's.

Fun much too -- shutting up now.


But David, surely languishing in obscurity doe's not mean that you're art incapable, ye's? A's a hobby, have you not longed to illustrate The Element's of Style? Not even dance interprative as an expression artful? I bet you have a secret notebook lying around in obscurity silent, just full of drawing's of contractions behind bar's, word's needles's sitting alone in lot's abandoned and such...

Just because you're not published, it doesn't mean you don't have aspirations, man!

(P'S Dan - you're forgetting Vardibidian's original rule, from the post. No terminal words longer than six letter's are legal. It's not easy :)


It's not easy :)

Why, no, sir. No, it i's not. So mind-consuming, in fact, that I read comment thi's from david:

what impenetrable glockenspiel! epoxy on the englage languish.

and thought to myself, "he must be setting out rule new own hi's, and I just don't see it."

Now I'm reading it more a's a rebuke. :)


Ye’s, apostrophe’s lot’s dres’s up a page comment’s, I’d say.


I have not illustrated The Element's of Style because I hate art.

However, although I am not a fan huge of the book, I do think it's advice i's mostly not bad.

The edition original i's available online for free. I adhere to nearly everything in the Elementary Rule's of Usage chapter, though I prefer to think of them a's guideline's rather than rule's.

(Note that the end of the introduction suggest's that you can break rule's if you know what you are doing.)

I do not pay so much attention consciou's to the Elementary Principle's of Composition chapter, but I do consider most of those guideline's to be idea's good, especially for writer's novice.

And the chapter's other similarly provide (it seem's to me) advice reasonable, albeit a little dated in some part's.

For advice better and briefer on style per se, I turn to Orwell's Politic's and the English Language; not the essay entire, just the "four question's" (and "two more") in the middle and the six rule's near the end.


i broke rule's nearly all in my post's and all i contribation wa's my violuted persical ongoing technonal of what i's easy to read: no cap's. if one desire's confuity utter, then consision another possibilder, that word's longer than 7 letters shall have each others' end.


My new rule is that all word's ultisyllabic-may must be endered-ray in Atin-lay Pig.

I'm with Jed. I think Element-say Style i's best read not as escription-pray, but as a escription-day the aseline-bay iting-wray eneric-gay expository-ay; not so much "you must write like thi's", as "there are way's many to write, but here is a one clear, perhap's (in the era since Strunk and White) the one most opular-pay; so that when you eviate-day from thi's aseline-bay, you call attention-ay to the ylistic-stay.


..., dude.

:-)


Perhaps I will go into Strunk’s book in more detail in a separate note, but for the moment, I’ll just say that Mr. Rosenbaum is correct in suggesting that the stultifying little pamphlet is responsible for influencing much of the most uninspired, interchangeable, monotonous, rote, pretentious and humorless expository writing that dominated public writing for decades, and that, as Jed alludes to, the most insidious aspect is the idea that it is somehow OK for the best writers to deviate from his pointless and prejudiced pedantry, but that people in middle-school writing classes should stifle any impetus to creativity.
Aw, crap.
erhap’s-pay i will go into strunk’’s book in more etail-day in a note eparate-say, but for the oment-may, I’ll just say that ister-may osenbaum-ray i’s orrect-cay in uggesting-say that the amphlet-pay ultifying-stay and ittle-lay i’s esponsible-ray for influencing-nay much of the expository-nay iting-ray uninspired-nay most, interchangeable-nay, onotonou’s-may, rote, etentiou’s-pray and umorles’s-hay that ominated-day iting-wray ublic-pay for ecade’s-day, and that, a’s jed allude’s-nay to, the aspect-nay most insidiou’s-nay i’s the idea that it i’s omehow-say ok-nay for the iter’s-wray best to eviate-day from hi’s pedantry ointles’s-pay and ejudiced-pray, but that eople-pay in asse’s-clay iting-wray iddle-may-ool-schay should stifle any impetu’s-nay to eativity-cray, and so on, in a pig’s ear.
or should adverb’s-nay trail as well, Dan?
Thanks,
-V.


i failed to illustrate-hay the elements-hay style ecause-bay i had to wash my efrigerator-ray that day.

new rule: one must alway's-hay use ontraction's-cay erever-whey they might ossibly-pay fit. you can't ever spell things out the way you'd erhap's-pay ormally-nay think of oing-day.


to answer-ay estion-quay your, ardibidian-vay, i uppose-say that an urist-pay would go after-ay the adverb's-ay, too, but, hey, i am an incrementalist-ay.

i think it i's unny-fay that you, ben, and i all have earned-lay ifferent-day ay's-way to ender-ray word's ithout-way an onsonant-cay eading-lay in atin-lay pig. if i wa's not ollowing-fay lead ben's, i would use a "-way" ailing-tray.


oh, my. i just igural-fay out avid's-day rule additioned-ay.

to answer-ay esdian-quay your, ardibition-vay, i uplist-say that an urist-pay would go after-ay the adverb's-ay, too, but, hey, i am an incrementapose-ay.

i think it i's unny-fay that you, ben, and i all have earned-lay iffenant-day ay's-way to ender-ray word's ithout-way an onsorent-cay eading-lay in atin-lay pig. if i wa's not olloling-fay lead ben's, i would use a "-way" aiwing-tray.


teacher my crazy school high english had u's thi's ... um ... version--search the page for "strunk doe's white"--of strunk & white. ye's, in a school high public. warning: page perhap's not work safe. we read it in harper's, the real deal cited there.


rule my new is clearly "omit any verb which before a link! doh.


The NPR piece today (11/2/2005) made it seem actually kindof interesting and funny. But the opera that was also written to the Elements of Style seems like a bad idea (you can listen to it at NPR.org)


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