The Elements of Style

I have procrastinated reading this book, which is considered a wonderful guide for beginning writers, for the longest time. I am glad I finally did. A little book of about 40 pages, the book presents simple and practical advice on writing in a concise and clear manner. It spells out the rules of English grammar, and contains eight rules of usage, ten rules of composition, some notes on miscellaneous matters of form in writing (such as headings, numerals, and quotations), and lists of commonly misused and misspelled words.

The book is even recommended by Stephen King in his book “On Writing” to any aspiring fiction writer. Also, not to forget the funny examples. This book is a gem!

A few key takeaways:

  1. Use active voice
  2. Omit needless words
  3. Put statements in positive form
  4. ‘Less’ is not equal to ‘fewer’
  5. Don’t thank people in advance
    if you say “thanks in advance”…you’re saying “I cannot be bothered with writing you again”

A stark piece of advice that I would want to tell and retell to many who write:

“Unless there is a good reason for its being there, do not inject opinion into a piece of writing. We all have opinions about almost everything, and the temptation to toss them in is great. To air one’s views gratuitously, however, is to imply that the demand for them is brisk, which may not be the case, and which, in any event, may not be relevant to the discussion. Opinions scattered indiscriminately about leave the mark of egotism on a work.”

What worked for me:

It is short, pointed, and takes a stand, and it has been carefully evolved and polished through multiple editions until its recent edition.

What did not work for me:

First published in 1918, the book has become somewhat out of style.

My recommendation:

Don’t read it only if you consider yourself a serious writer. Anyone who wants to write, be it a professional email to a letter can benefit from this.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Megha Chaturvedi
Megha is a passionate storyteller with over 12 years of experience supporting various organisations helping them shape their communication strategies. An ambivert, Megha wants to be constantly educated by new people, ideas, stories, hobbies, and places. In her part time, Megha does pro-bono consulting, mentors students and stalks brands on social media.

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