After having heard many recommendations, I finally purchased and read Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style.
If you write at all, in any capacity, this is a must-read.
Not only is it incredibly short, clever, and to the point, it also has some insightful thoughts on writing itself—some of which impacted me greatly.
Sure, it’s not the final word on proper writing and even I disagreed with some of the points (this from a rather agreeable guy), but it’s a great overview of the essentials. I expect I’ll return to it often.
Allow me to share just a few excerpts that I found striking:
“Writing, to be effective, must follow closely the thoughts of the writer, but not necessarily in the order in which those thoughts occur. … The first principle of composition, therefore, is to force or determine the shape of what is to come and pursue that shape. … The more clearly the writer perceives the shape, the better are the chances of success.”
“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.”
“All writers, by the way they use the language, reveal something of their spirits, 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 Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito.”
“Writing is, for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen; consequently, writing becomes a question of learning to make occasional wing shots, bringing down the bird of thought as it flashes by.”
“A careful and honest writer does not need to worry about style. As you become proficient in the use of language, your style will emerge, because you yourself will emerge, and when this happens you will find it incredibly easy to break through the barriers that separate you from other minds, other hearts—which is, of course, the purpose of writing, as well as its principal reward. Fortunately, the act of composition, or creation, disciplines the mind; writing is one way to go about thinking, and the practice and habit of writing not only drain the mind but supply it, too.”