As we conclude our centennial appreciation of William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, let’s ponder parentheses and muse about misuses and misspellings.
This year we have taken an occasional look at the little book, and we are not alone in finding much to appreciate in the duo’s sage advice. In comments on my stories, many readers have recalled how the book helped clarify their prose.
Nancy Bowen Wiggins writes that she has been advocating the use of Shrunk and White for years.
“I was introduced to this writing style primer by my professor Hal Barber in grad school at Trinity University,” she says. “He said that I need a more straightforward method of writing to gain clarity to my presentation of thoughts. It has worked for me.”
Randall Bassin says rule No. 17—“Omit needless words”—has served him well over the years. “It is the one lecture by Professor William Strunk Jr. that I wish I could have attended, if only to cheer and applaud his point,” he writes. “One caveat: Purists may wish to defer to the Third Edition, as the Fourth infused examples of politically correct speech.”
One shy reader who gives his name only as Bob frets that social media and the lack of grammar education have made clear prose a lost art.
“Like your appearance at an important business meeting, the first impressions of your writing ability will often determine a person’s opinion of your education, intelligence and