Strunk and White considered harmful?


Whoa. Check out this brutal takedown of the beloved The Elements of Style. Even though I generally have little patience for grammar nazis, I couldn’t stop reading things like

The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense.

and on the popularity of the book

This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian.

The article goes on to cite numerous examples at various levels of pedantry.

Many people including myself appreciate straightforward guidelines, a framework in which to think about good and bad ways to put prose together. Strunk and White does this better than anything else I’ve seen. Effective writing leaps off the page–picky rules can go leap elsewhere. As for me, I’ll stick with Strunk, though not as a religion. Sin and Syntax is another great roadmap to the wonderful wacky English language. -m

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3 Replies to “Strunk and White considered harmful?”

  1. I certainly find it important for one’s writing style to have internal consistency. A style manual provides constraints that ultimately afford more efficient communication. Borrowing from Strunk and White or any of the dozen other prominent style manuals does the job, but wisdom is about knowing when to break the rules.

  2. So, you didn’t actually read the post? You appreciate straight-forward guidelines that make no sense?

    1. Huh? No need for a hostile tone in these parts, stranger.

      My point is that a book can be brilliant, even indispensable, despite declining to follow every rule set forth by grammarians or others. I’d rather read something from someone with a good intuitive sense of words than from a strict grammar expert. I try to write the same as what I like to read. -m

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