The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is one book I think every writer has not only heard of but has on their bookshelf somewhere. If you don’t, and you’re serious about your writing, download a copy or pick one up asap. I can’t stress enough how helpful this book is, it’s like a writer’s best friend.
It is broken down into five sections: Elementary Rules of Usage. Question about whether to use the ’s on a possessive singular noun? It’ll make things clear. Do not join independent clauses by a comma. Use the proper case of the pronoun. On and on this section goes for those days when you’re sitting stumped about using a dash to set off an abrupt break or interruption.
Section Two is Elementary Principles of Composition such as choose a design and stick to it. Using the active versus the passive voice. How to place the emphatic words of a sentence, so that it has the most impact. Here, I found the meat of a writer’s trade. We’re always looking for advice for how to begin, what rules to follow, and how to bring things alive for our reader. It’s in here. And more.
While section Three gives of A Few Matters of Form, section Four hits on Words and Expressions Commonly Used. It is Section Five that I loved the most however. It’s about an Approach to Style. Those of you starting out might want to peruse this to learn about your Voice and how to find it, practice it, and refine it. It shows you how to place yourself in your writing. And that is a value to learn to make you more attractive to an agent and editor. The book says an aging practitioner once remarked, “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.” I think we need to know all the bases before we can truly explore and break the rules.
For instance, I don’t like to end a sentence with a preposition. I’ve been taught that was wrong, but this book explains that not only is it acceptable but sometimes it is in a more effective spot than anywhere else in the sentence. I. E. “A claw hammer, not an axe, was the tool he murdered her with.”
This is one little book that’s going on my desk for quick reference. I’ve had it here before, of course, but it’s been many years since I’ve cracked its page. I will now, when the moment strikes for clarity. I hope you open it to find your own nuggets, it’s truly a treasure to behold, and deserves a high place on any writer’s list.