Monday, September 29, 2008

Stuck by Strunk

I would not call these men "Grammar Nazi's", but I would call Strucker and E.B. White "Grammar Stormtroopers". I picture some stuffy old white men with silly curled mustaches dropping from the skies in late Victorian America in crazy old inventions: clandestine agents of the New World, here to clean up grammar and push onto an unwashed and ignorant horde of plebians the use of proper diction.

Sadly, this is not the truth. Anyway: about the book.

The book itself is dry and boring, but flows well. Strunk and White's "Grumpy Old Man" tone add a certain level of personality and flavor that strangely allows the reader to connect with the book. I say "strangely" because, as a lifetime student, I did not expect a book on grammar to grab me as it did. Well, more so than any other grammar book. The book, overall, is consistent and full of useful "How-To's" to help students of all ages navigate the tricky world of the English language. I found particularly helpful the area about how to use commas properly.

However, I did find that some areas of the book where slightly troublesome. For example, Strunk and White tell us students to avoid "Loose sentences", to not "affect a breezy manner" in our writing, and to (in general) keep sentences short and to the point. This is all well and good, but I have been accused of teachers of "affecting a breezy manner" and "rambling" in my papers when I was just trying to illustrate a point clearly. And since Strunk and White believe that style is not something that can be defined or taught easily (section five, an "Approach to Style"), I could see how a writer's style could very well "affect a breezy manner". Also, when you have to write out a zillion pages on a paper that you finished up in about three pages, it can get very tempting to write in a breezy manner.

Anyway, all in all a good book and a must have for any writer - - especially those who want to write academically and professionaly.

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