The Strunk

“To write well is to think well, to feel well, and to render well; it is to possess at once an intellect, soul, and taste.”

- George Louis Buffon

When to use further or farther?

Since when are nouns used as verbs??

And when did irregardless become acceptable*???

Questions like these have been keeping me awake at night.

Thank god for the Strunk.

E.B. White, in his 1979 introduction to The Elements of Style, written by William Strunk Jr. and first published in 1918, refers to it as Strunk’s “…parvum opus, his attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin… it was a forty-three-page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English. Today, sixty years later, its vigor is unimpaired, and for sheer pith I think it probably sets a record that is not likely to be broken.”

I dare say it hasn’t been broken. Today, ninety years later, in this world of jargonized English where impact seems to have become a verb and world leaders are known to invent words (think no further – not farther - thanmisunderestimated), the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity is more important than ever.

I’ve been having fun reading Strunk’s chapter, Misused Words and Expressions.Here are a few of my favourites:

Clever. Note that the word means one thing when applied to men, another when applied to horses. A clever horse is a good-natured one, not an ingenious one.

Contact. As a transitive verb, the word is vague and self-important. Do not contactanybody; get in touch with him, or look him up, or phone him, or find him, or meet him.

Enthuse. An annoying verb growing out of the noun enthusiasm. Not recommended.

Facility. Why must jails, hospitals, schools suddenly become “facilities”?

And finally:

Prestigious. Often an adjective of last resort. It’s in the dictionary, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it.

Unimpaired vigor. Sheer pith. What could possibly make better bedtime reading than this? At last, I can sleep at night.

*It didn’t.


Categories: General.