English is a very funny language!
Writing is an immense hard work and it’s a myth that it’s a cakewalk. I used to consider myself as a ‘born writer’ and blessed with continuous flashes of creativity. When I started writing for work, I used to give myself a pat on my back. But life is not rosy and editors have the last word. I was advised that I need to give ‘serious thoughts to the woven words’ as most of the articles which I have posted are ‘grammatically WRONG’ ( with strong emphasis on the word wrong hence in capitals). I was heart broken at first and these statements did not go well. However, soon reason conquered and was researching on ‘How to write well’ books on amazon. I came across The Elements of Style by William Strunk and William Zinsser’s On Writing Well. I placed an order for both of them. I was expecting tomes which will give me quick tips to rectify my writing mistakes. I was disappointed when I saw the tiny little book by William Strunk. I believe in ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ and started reading. Believe me, it has the secret recipe and I am happy that it’s my constant companion now. I would like to share few quotes from ‘The Elements of Style’ which are applicable for writers across different genres.
Writing is hard, even for authors who do it all the time. Less 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.
Write in a way that comes naturally
Revise and rewrite
Do not explain too much
Seven rules of usage, eleven principles of composition, a few matters of form, and a list of words and expressions commonly misused – that was the sum and substance of Professor Strunk’s work.
His book contains rule of grammar phrased as direct orders.
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric.
Writing to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. This calls for a scheme of procedure. In some cases, the best design is no design, as with a love letter, which is simply an outpouring, or with a casual essay which is a ramble.
All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirit, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation – It is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.
Young writers often suppose that style is a garnish for the meat of prose, a sauce by which a dull dish is made palatable. Style has no such separate entity; it is nondetachable, unfilterable. The beginner should approach style warily, realising that it is an expression of self, and should turn resolutely away from all devices that are popularly believed to indicate style – all mannerisms, tricks, adornments. The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.
Writing good standard English is no cinch, and before you have managed it you will have encountered enough rough country to satisfy even the most adventurous spirit.
Style takes its final shape more from attitudes of mind than from principles of composition, for, as an elderly practitioner once remarked, ‘Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.’
I have realised that we are not born perfect and one can never attain perfection. We can only aim to be constant learners. Writing is an art and your next post will always be better than your previous one. I would highly recommend this book for all, whether they are writers or not.
Author: William Strunk Jr and E B White
Release: July 1999
Genre: Non fiction / Writing
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