The Elements of Style
by William StrunkFinished
There were a few humorously archaic references in this book, but for the most part it holds up 100 years later!
Odds & Ends
Here are the main rules that stood out to me, most likely because I flout them all.
- Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's
- In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last.
Oxford comma, I don’t do this but perhaps I should?
- Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas
I do a lot of parentheticals. Good core rule to remember.
- Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a co-ordinate clause.
So before the and or but. I need to do this.
- Do not join independent clauses by a comma.
If two or more clauses, grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction, are to form a single compound sentence, the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon.
Or a period.
Do not break sentences in two.
A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject
e.g. about the subject of the sentence:
Walking slowly down the road, he saw a woman accompanied by two children
vs. referring to the woman
He saw a woman accompanied by two children, walking slowly down the road.
- One paragraph to each topic
- Begin each paragraph with a topic sentence, end it with conformity with the beginning
- Use the active voice as it’s more “direct and vigorous”
A common fault is to use as the subject of a passive construction a noun which expresses the entire action, leaving to the verb no function beyond that or completing the sentence.
e.g. A survey of this region was made in 1900 vs. This region was surveyed in 1900.
- Put statements in positive form
- Use definite, specific, concrete language
- Omit needless words
- Avoid a succession of loose sentences
- Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form
- Keep related words together
The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not, as a rule, be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning.
- In summaries, keep to one tense
- Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end
Words to avoid
Certainly, can (instead of may), factor, feature, interesting, so, sort of, kind of, system, very, while