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Notes of [Elements of Style] by Strunk and White – V(a)

1. About styles

In general, styles can barely be taught or even ‘learned’. It is more of a mysterious process where one has to fumble a lot before realizing what his/her own style is.

“All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation”

“The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity”

2. Advices (1-5)

1) Place yourself in the background

“Write in a way that draws the reader’s attention to the sense and substance of the writing, rather than to the mood and temper of the author.” This means to approach styles, start with “affecting none”. Care more about the “sense and substance” of the writing per se rather than “how I can write it to distinguish myself”, etc.

2) Write in a way that comes naturally

“Write in a way that comes easily and naturally to you, using words and phrases that come readily to hand. But do not assume that because you have acted naturally your product is without flaw.”

“Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead to admire what is good.”

3) Work from a suitable design

Design matters. Design is about holistically thinking what your writing would be like instead of dipping down to the first sentence right away.

“Columbus didn’t just sail, he sailed west, and the New World took shape from this simple and, we now think, sensible design”.

4) Write with nouns and verbs

Generally the nouns and verbs are more essential than adjectives and adverbs.

5) Revise and rewrite

Few writers can have perfect writing at the first try. Revising and rewriting is common among writers, especially the best of them.


About Xiang 'Anthony' Chen

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