First Impressions of S & W

Often times, meaning pretty much all of the time, I struggle with the “Principles of Composition” rule number “16. Use definite, specific, concrete language” (21). I tend to be vague in my writing, not purposely, but because I am afraid to use a word inappropriately. I’ve read extensively, and speak with a large vocabulary, but something holds me back from using my knowledge of words in writing: fear. This rule is not helpful to me because it is a new concept, but because I need to remind myself to apply this rule. In speaking of great writers, Strunk and White say “their words call up pictures” (21); this is what I want to do with my writing.

In avoiding concrete language, I can often become too wordy. I will go overboard with unneeded words, so the section of Strunk and White’s book “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused,” hit me hard. I know that my language can go overboard and sometimes even sound precocious. This section was once again a good reminder for me to be more aware of my word choices in writing. Three examples of misused phrases that I know I am at fault for using are: “as to whether,” “as yet,” and “each and every one” (41, 45).

I think by this point, through my thread posts on the class website, I have made it entirely clear that I am not the biggest fan of style guides and rules. Although I see the point, reasoning, and explanation for style guides, I have yet to get the displeasurable thoughts from my mind when I read them. Although my use of the word “displeasurable” in the past sentence is use of an adjective and not an adverb, I disagree with the concept of rule “12. Do not construct awkward adverbs” from the section “An Approach to Style” (75). There is nothing awkward about creating new words if the meaning is clear. If there isn’t a word that I want to use more, why not make a word to suit my purpose?

The rule that struck my funny bone the hardest though, was from “Approach to Style.” This rule states “21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat” (81). Strunk and White explain that language grows and changes, as well as becomes outdated. They are writing about slang terms they believe do not belong in writing. I do believe that if I were composing a thesis paper, I would not casually use the words “fuck” or “dude,” but there can be a time and a place- even in acedemic writing- for the use of slang. All language becomes outdated, not just slang. Just think of the struggles we face when reading Chaucer or even Shakespeare (and Shakespeare used slang, damnit!).


Strunk, William, and E. B. White. The Elements of Style. 4th ed. Massachusetts: Pearson/Longman, 2000. Print.


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