Strunk & White’s Elements of Style Turns 50


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

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