When I was first getting into writing articles and reviews, someone mentioned the book Elements of Style as an excellent writing resource. I ordered a used copy from Thriftbooks and anxiously waited for it to arrive. I’ve re-read it every year since then!
I learned the basics of grammar and good writing in school, but Elements of Style was just the refresher I needed because I tend to slip into bad habits in my writing over time. While I know many of the things covered in the short book, I need to be reminded of them regularly. Re-reading it routinely helps me “tighten up” my writing and combats my tendency to become lazy about structure and grammar.
I’ve read opinions from successful professional writers who dislike Elements of Style and don’t believe that it’s the best advice for writers of fiction in particular. I’m hardly an expert, nor am I on the same level of professional writing as they are, so I hesitate to suggest that their opinion is wrong. That being said, I do notice an improvement in my own writing after reading through the book, and I’ve had a couple of editors comment on it as well. Perhaps it’s not the best fit for all writers and all genres of writing, but then, nothing is!
Whether you’re already familiar with grammar and writing structure, or are just learning, Elements of Style is a solid resource. It’s short enough that reading it isn’t overwhelming, but it’s packed with good advice! I have my kids read it in Jr. High or High School (or both) to help them understand the basics of structuring their writing. While poetry and fiction will bend the rules a little more often out of necessity, I still believe that the advice in Elements of Style can be of benefit.
What do you think? Have you read Elements of Style? Do you think the advice is helpful as a writer or editor?