Archive for the ‘Birthdays’ Category

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style Turns 50

Thursday, April 16th, 2009


Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White. I bet that all readers of this blog own a copy, or have owned a copy of this little book at one point in their lives, and doubtless it has helped all of us improve our writing in one way or another. It’s interesting, then, to read a linguist’s take on The Elements of Style. According to Geoffrey K. Pullum, head of linguistics and English language at the University of Edinburgh and co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Strunk and White were ‘grammatical incompetants.’ Read Pullem’s full article, ’50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice’ here.

Before you fret over your use of the singular verb with ‘none’ (‘none of us is going to the party’ vs ‘none of us are going to the party’), consider this sane and balanced view of linguists, courtesy of Crispin Elsted: ‘Useful people, linguists … but they bear the same relation to writing that nutritionists do to food: you’ll survive, but you won’t be happy.’

And so, if you’ve been looking for an excuse to crack open that magnum of Veuve Clicquot, why not toast fifty years of a very lucid, useful book?

— Paul Razzell

William Morris’s Birthday

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

Arguably the father of modern fine printing, William Morris celebrates his 175 birthday on March 24. It’s almost impossible to read a book about the history of fine printing without a reference to Emery Walker’s lantern slide show which got Morris wondering about starting the Kelmscott Press. Although not really a fan of Morris’s work, this reviewer has long thought perfect the following Morris quote:

If I were asked to say what is at once the most important production of Art and the thing most to be longed for, I should answer, A beautiful House; and if I were further asked to name the production next in importance and the thing next to be longed for, I should answer, A beautiful Book. To enjoy good houses and good books in self-respect and decent comfort, seems to me to be the pleasurable end towards which all societies of human beings ought now to struggle.

–Michael Russem