1. Tim3232
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    Tim3232 Active Member

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    The Elements of Style

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Tim3232, Nov 12, 2015.

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  2. datahound2u
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    datahound2u Member

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    This little handbook is mentioned by Stephen King in On Writing. He offers this book as the only notable exception to the "bullshit rule," which he says is what fills most books on writing. Like he should know something about writing, right?
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a good little book, but be wary of reading it with too much reverence. There are definitely some issues with it.

    For a fairly scathing summary, see: http://chronicle.com/article/50-Years-of-Stupid-Grammar/25497
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    This is required reading for a lot of intro college courses in the humanities because it covers a lot of the basics. But, as BayView pointed out, it does have its problems. For creative writers, I think the Chicago Manual of Style is a better investment even though it's more expensive. It's what most publishers use and contains information on pretty much every topic you could think of.
     
  5. datahound2u
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    datahound2u Member

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    Thanks for sharing that summary. I found it quite interesting.
     
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  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    My understanding is that all manuals of style are aimed at non-fiction writing. I've yet to find one that claimed to cover fiction writing.
     
  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, I think most publishers use CMoS, but, yeah, they're more willing to make exceptions to the rules than non-fiction publishers might be. And I know quite a few publishers have their own House Style - generally based on CMoS, but with exceptions as they feel warranted.
     
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  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. I've often wondered why so many people misunderstand what passive voice is, and I knew that The Elements of Style had an incorrect example of it. (I didn't realize that it had THREE incorrect examples.) I never connected these two things before. Are Strunk and White to blame for the near-universal misunderstanding of, and terror of, passive voice?

    Hmm.
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't be surprised! It's an influential book.
     
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  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Hey, thanks SO much for posting this. Very interesting. And I think well-founded. So many people seem to think any sentence containing the word 'was' is passive voice and consequently a no-no. How bizarre.

    Maybe it's a popular book because it's easy to read. (Kind of like Eats Shoots and Leaves, by Lynn Truss.) Maybe The Elements of Style is better than nothing—if it's the only style/grammar book people are likely to read—but it would be interesting if a modern grammarian could go through and correct the mistakes, and republish it as 'new and improved!'
     
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  11. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Just keep in mind that this probably comes from the 1920 publication, which is in the public domain. The book has been substantially revised and extended since then.
     
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  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I've got the Fourth Edition, and the section on passive voice is exactly as this article quoted it. So maybe it needs a Fifth!
     
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  13. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, the article isn't old. It is dealing with the current edition, which I think is a lot longer than the PDF linked in the OP. Based on comments I see about passive voice in writing forums, too many people have apparently read Strunk & White or repeated what is found there. Still, on the whole it seems like a useful reference. As with any reference, you have to know what you're doing.

    As noted above, I'd refer to Strunk & White or CMoS more for non-fiction and not worry about it as much for fiction, where style may trump other considerations (as long as you know what you're doing and aren't blundering into things).
     
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  14. R.P. Kraul
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    R.P. Kraul Member

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    It's a nice little book, though I think Fowler and Bryan Garner covered some of the topics in a lot more detail.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sad, sad face on WreyWrey. :bigfrown: Yes, you could not be more correct @ChickenFreak in that what passive voice even means is perennially misunderstood. When I see the term used to mean writing that simply lacks dynamism, or pointing at every occurrence of "was" as a marker for passive voice, I die a little inside.
     
  16. JLT
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    JLT Active Member

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    What I've taken away from Elements of Style (a copy of which I've had on hand since high school) is not so much the rules of grammar and usage, but what White added later about the things that get in the way of good, clear writing and why you should avoid them. Most of those admonitions have stood the test of time, although usage changes with time and cultural differences, and will continue to do so.
     
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