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Stylish writing has never been much of an issue before reading Strunk and White and Williams. I personally would interpret style as being an individual refection of one’s self. In reading “The Element of Style” and “Style Toward Clarity and Grace” I learned that style isn’t necessarily just a reflection of an individual’s style but it is also how the many rules to writing are used when composing a piece. In Strunk, White and Williams’ attempts to educate formal writers on how to write stylish, understandably, and within the rules, they give great examples of the usage of correct grammar, composition, and words and expressions.
The authors of both books agree that there are rules to follow when writing a good or stylish paper and that most or all of the rules need to be followed in order for your piece to be a success. I do believe that Williams was a bit more lenient with the rules though. While Strunk and White seemed to be saying these are the rules follow them or else, Williams seems to be saying, these are the rules follow them but not so much so as to loose your own style.
One Rule imposed by Strunk and White that really stood out for me is “Do not explain too much”. (75) Strunk and White state that it is seldom advisable to tell all. My problem with this is, when an author is writing his/her objective is generally to explain something or to tell a story and without stating the obvious what actually is too much explaining. Strunk and White were a bit vague on this subject as they were when they said, “Be clear” and “Do not inject opinion”(79). Two subjects that are understandable but I don’t feel were explained in enough detail.
Both authors address style from different perspectives but ultimately there are more similarities than differences in the two books, besides the fact that they are both defining style, they give somewhat similar accounts as to what they feel style is.
In Williams’ Cohesion chapter he emphasizes that to solve the problem with obtaining clarity when writing is to discover how, without sacrificing local clarity, we can shape sentences to fit their context and to reflect those larger intentions that motivate us to write in the first place (45).
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Strunk and White emphasize many helpful and valid points in their little book and so does Williams. The majority of the things that are in both books are really reiterations of things that most of us have learned previously. There are also things in both books that are pretty simple rules i.e. “Avoid foreign languages”, (Strunk & White 20) unless you are writing for foreigners why would you do that.
Non the less, both books are not the best reads, but they are very helpful and insightful when it comes to writing formal material and I expect to be using Williams as a helpful reminder during the rest of my college career.
1. Strunk, William, Jr., White, E.B. “The Elements of Style”. 3rd edition. New York: Macmillian, 1979.
2. Williams, Joseph M. Style: “Toward Clarity and Grace”. U of Chicago: Chicago, 1990.