When In Doubt – Pick Up Strunk and White

By Tom Castor | January 13, 2024 | ,

Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” (William Strunk Jr. and later revised by E.B. White) is a timeless guide to effective writing, emphasizing clarity, conciseness, and style. If you want help writing with Clarity and Simplicity, there is nothing better.

Here’s a summary of key principles:

Clarity and Simplicity:
Use clear and straightforward language.
Eliminate unnecessary words and avoid complexity.
Choose the simplest, most direct way to express ideas.

Active Voice:
Prefer the active voice over the passive voice. Make the subject the doer of the action. 
Active voice adds vigor to sentences.

Avoid Needless Words:
Eliminate redundant phrases and words.
Be concise. Get to the point without unnecessary embellishments.

Strive for Precision:
Be specific. Convey your thoughts in precise language.
Avoid vague expressions that may lead to ambiguity.

Choose the Best Word:
Choose words that best convey your intended meaning. 
Understand the nuances of words and use them appropriately.

Be Mindful of Punctuation:
Good punctuation can enhance clarity.
Use punctuation to guide the reader through your writing.

Sentence Structure:
Vary sentence structure to maintain reader interest.
Pay attention to sentence length. 
Avoid complex or convoluted structures.

Paragraph Structure:
Organize paragraphs logically with a clear topic sentence.
Ensure coherence within paragraphs. 
Make smooth connections.

Consistency in Style:
Be consistent in style and tone throughout your piece.
Avoid abrupt shifts that may confuse or distract the reader.

Grammar and Usage:
Master the fundamentals of grammar to convey your ideas accurately.
Pay attention to common grammatical errors and correct them.

Be Economical:
Avoid unnecessary repetition and needless details.
Express ideas concisely without sacrificing clarity.

Use Active Verbs:
Opt for strong, active verbs to enhance the impact of your writing.
Passive constructions can weaken the sense of agency in your sentences.

Revise and Rewrite:
Understand the importance of revising and rewriting to refine your work.
Continually edit your writing for clarity, precision, and effectiveness.

Know Your Audience:
Tailor your writing to the audience you intend to reach.
Consider the reader’s background, knowledge, and expectations.

Avoid Clichés:
Steer clear of overused phrases and clichés.
Strive for originality in expression to captivate your audience.

Grammar as a Servant, Not a Master:
Use grammar to enhance your writing, not as a rigid set of rules.
Be flexible, but be aware of grammatical norms.

In essence, “Elements of Style” advocates for precision, clarity, and simplicity in writing. It serves as a valuable resource for both novice and experienced writers. Following these rules and suggestions can significantly elevate the quality of your writing, making it more engaging and effective.

Tom Castor

Thomas Castor, founder of Clear and Simple Media Group, is a seasoned writer and communicator who has been delivering content with clarity and simplicity for 30 years.