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Book Freak #35: Writing Tips from The Elements of Style

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Book Freak is a weekly newsletter with advice you can use to improve the quality of your life. Most p
 

Book Freak

November 18 · Issue #35 · View online
Short pieces of advice from books

Book Freak is a weekly newsletter with advice you can use to improve the quality of your life.
Most people have heard of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style. And many people have read it. I’ve read it three times – once in college, once 20 years ago, and again last month. I’ve gotten so much out of it each time, I should probably read it every 5 years. Here are four pieces of advice from the book.

Don't have a writing style
“To achieve style, begin by affecting none.”
Be specific
“Prefer the specific to the general, the definite to the vague, the concrete to the abstract… In his Philosophy of Style, Herbert Spencer gives two sentences to illustrate how the vague and general can be turned into the vivid and particular:
1) In proportion as the manners, customs, and amusements of a nation are cruel and barbarous, the regulations of its penal code will be severe.
2) In proportion as men delight in battles, bullfights, and combats of gladiators, will they punish by hanging, burning, and the rack.“
Avoid fancy words
“If you admire fancy words, if every sky is beauteous, every blonde curvaceous, every intelligent child prodigious, if you are tickled by discombobulate, you will have bad time.”
Don't enclose slang in quotes
“If you use a colloquialism or a slang word or phrase, simply use it; do not draw attention to it by enclosing it in quotation marks. To do so is to put on airs, as though you were inviting the reader to join you in a select society of those who know better.”
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