Thursday, May 14, 2009

'Elements' at 50

I didn't know Strunk and White's Elements of Style turned 50 not long ago; I thought it was older than that. But anyone who's interested in writing well knows about the book though there are some who find it grumble-worthy:
(S)ince its publication in 1959 Elements has sold nearly 10 million copies, which is pretty impressive indeed, even if several million of those were bought by college freshmen under compulsion. On the evidence the book remains a great sentimental favorite with the language-loving laity. Among those who examine words for a living, however--the clerics of the language game, the linguists and grammarians--the book is in bad odor. Some of them even consider it an active hindrance to knowledge, for the same reason a real-estate mogul would disdain "Monopoly" or professional hitmen take offense at the Godfather movies: It may look fun, but it gives everybody the wrong idea.

Gosh, I guess people will complain about anything.

Click on through for Andrew Ferguson's spirited defense of a book that, points out, is merely a starting point for good writing and not the end-all rule book for the written word.

Lighten up, people.

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