Books We Like
The Elements of Style
I first met this book when I was in English 10. On the PALC website, I came across my teacher’s article recommending it and went to the library. There it was, a tiny book sitting on a shelf quietly, lodged between other humongous books. It was the size of a postcard and only a quarter inch thick. But the contents were striking.
Lessons I learned
It says: not “He was not very often on time” but write “He usually came late”; not “A period of unfavourable weather set in” but write “It rained everyday for a week.”
The moment I read the page, dark clouds parted and bright sunshine came through. An epiphany! I had learned then that English was very straight-forward language, much different from my mother tongue. Just say as it is.
Not “He showed satisfaction as he took possession of well-earned reward” but “He grinned as he pocketed the coin.” Yes, indeed!
So I bought my own copy. Its do-and-don’t examples always help me, and I check other rules, too.
Recently, I was leafing though the pages after finishing the draft of an essay and found the passage saying that the word “worthwhile” is, frankly, useless. And I had used it as in “writing is worthwhile. . .” in my essay. I jumped up and went, damn! That’s so true! “Worthwhile” doesn’t say anything! I need to articulate it!
This little book has taught me so much. I can’t thank it enough for the wisdom.
It has guided me through all those years (well, it’s actually two years, but seems longer) and I continue to live—I mean, write—by its principles. I chant: “A sentence should contain no unnecessary word, a paragraph no unnecessary sentence, for the same reason that the drawing should have no unnecessary line and a machine no unnecessary part.”
Mr. Strunk and Mr. White, I swear I’ll do my best to follow your advice.