The elements of style PDF book by William Strunk (for Writers) 1920

The elements of style PDF book by William Strunk (for Writers)


This book aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. In accordance with this plan it lays down three rules for the use of the comma, instead of a score or more, and one for the use of the semicolon, in the belief that these four rules provided. the internal punctuation that is required by nineteen sentences out of twenty. Similarly, it gives in Chapter III only those principles of the paragraph and the sentence which are of the widest application. 


The book thus covers only a small portion of the field of English style. The experience of its writer has been that once past the essentials, students profit most by individual instruction based on the problems of their own work, and that each instructor has his own body of theory, which he may prefer to that offered by any textbook. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting the manuscript.



 The writer's colleagues in the Department of English at Cornell University have greatly helped him in the preparation of his manuscript Mr. George McLane Wood has kindly consented to the inclusion under Rule 10 of some material from his Suggestions to Authors.

Contents of the book

I. Introductory 5

II. Elementary Rules of Usage 7

1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's. 7

2. In a series of three or more terms with a single con-

junction, use a comma after each term except the last 7

3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas . . 8

4. Place a comma before a conjunction introducing a coordinate clause 10

5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma. ... 11

6. Do not break sentences in two 12

7. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence

must refer to the grammatical subject 13

III. Elementary Principles or Composition 15

8. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one

paragraph to each topic 15

9. As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence;

end it in conformity with the beginning 17

10. Use the active voice 19

11. Put statements in positive form 21

12. Use definite, specific, concrete language 22

13. Omit needless words 24

14. Avoid a succession of loose sentences 25

15. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form 26

16. Keep related words together 28

17. In summaries, keep to one tense 29

18. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end . 31

IV. A Few Matters OF Form ' 33

V. Words and Expressions Commonly Misused.  36

VI. Spelling 48

VII. Exercises on Chapters II and III 50

Author: William Strunk
 Publication Date:1920

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