Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Read any little books lately?

     Have you read "the little book"? Everyone in advertising and marketing should have a copy to read and re-read every year.

      "The little book", as it is known by professionals, is "The Elements of Style". It was originally written by William Strunk, Jr., an English professor at Cornell. Thirty-nine years later one of his students, New Yorker magazine essayist E.B. White, wrote the introduction and added a chapter.

      "The Elements of Style" makes the case for accuracy and brevity in 71 pages. It will help you become not only a better writer but also a clearer thinker. Everything will be sharper, with its edges showing. Professor Strunk was the enemy of ambiguity. Careless writers often use fuzzy language for pleasing doubters. Trouble is, customers want to know --- and are entitled to know --- exactly what a product will and won't do.

       "The little book" will help your writing get trimmer, slimmer, without losing any of its strength. It will help you cut out extra words and meaningless conversational fluff. Professor Strunk writes forcibly, and issues orders. White sharpened the points of these directives and aims them at the heart of today's writing. The book takes those things you learned in elementary school and helps you better understand and appreciate them, finally.

        You'll never again use language such as "a member of the student body" when you can just write "a student".

        You'll shudder at using such expressions as "the foreseeable future" because you'll wonder who can foresee what how far in advance.

        You'll understand that "type" is not a synonym for "kind of" and value the difference.

        You'll learn what to do when you become mired in a sentence; how muddiness destroys hope; how adjectives bleed nouns; and when never to use "not".

         I still use the 95-cent copy I bought when I was starting out. It's about $15 now, and even comes in a slightly more expensive illustrated edition.

        Buy it. Read it. Keep it. Use it. It can make a writer out of you.

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