The Elements of Style

A brilliant professor of ‘Effective Communication’ first introduced me to "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. I fell in love with the "slender volume" as soon as I’d laid my hands on it (the only copy in the college library). I wanted to own this thing of beauty, and looked for it in many bookstores. Alas, it was out of print for nearly 6 years.

Then, one day, I chanced upon it during my annual visit to the Strand sale ! And the very next day, following a twisted path of links on the Internet, I discovered that a good publisher has made available a significant part of its content online … for free !!!

Here are some excerpts :

Omit needless words

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic

A subject requires subdivision into topics, each of which should be made the subject of a paragraph. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is, of course, to aid the reader. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal to him that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached.

The extent of subdivision will vary with the length of the composition. For example, a short notice of a book or poem might consist of a single paragraph. One slightly longer might consist of two paragraphs.

Put statements in positive form

Make definite assertions. Avoid tame, colorless, hesitating, non-committal language. Use the word not as a means of denial or in antithesis, never as a means of evasion.


This little gem is a must-have for any student of English or effective communication. Two pages of this will do more for you than two hundred from the old ‘Wren and Martin’ or any other grammar bible you grew up reading. It is a delight to read even if you’re not looking to dive into the nuances of the English language.