Sunday, October 7, 2012
In 2009, Geoffrey Pullum wrote a highly critical review of Strunk & White’s “The Elements of Style,” one of the early bibles on the subject. Now, he has written a short piece about all the hate mail that his article generated. Both articles are in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The Comments following the article are worth reading. Bryan Garner has written a defense of S&W. In addition, you can find a balanced assessment at Pam Nelson’s The Grammar Guide.
Strunk & White was my first introduction to writing style. I didn’t come across it until my first year of law school. When I talk about writing with nonacademic lawyers, I am surprised by how often they refer to this little book as the best authority on its subject. I suspect that they encountered the book during their collegiate or legal studies as I did. Although one can quibble about some of the book’s elements, by and large, it sends a sound message about writing in a clear, crisp style.