William Strunk, Jr.

The Elements of Style

N EW YORK 1918


1 3 3 4 4 6 7 8 9 10 13 13 15 18 20 21 23 24 25 27 28 31 35 45


1. Form the possessive singular of nouns with ’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4. Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause . . . . . . . 5. Do not join independent clauses by a comma . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6. Do not break sentences in two . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8. Divide words at line-ends, in accordance with their formation and pronunciation .



9. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic . . . . 10. As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11. Use the active voice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12. Put statements in positive form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13. Omit needless words . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14. Avoid a succession of loose sentences . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16. Keep related words together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17. In summaries, keep to one tense . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .







Asserting that one must first know the rules to break them, this classic reference is a must-have for any student and conscientious writer. Intended for use in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature, it gives in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style and concentrates attention on the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated.



which he prefers to that offered by any textbook. Foresman and Co. the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. Horace Hart. but the experience of its writer has been that once past the essentials. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials. and that each instructor has his own body of theory.Chapter I I NTRODUCTORY This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. T. The book covers only a small portion of the field of English style. Workmanship in Words (Little. Chicago University Press. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. F. It aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. Author and Printer (Henry Frowde). De Vinne. especially the chapter. Brown and Co. students profit most by individual instruction based on the problems of their own work. in connection with Chapters III and V. English Usage (Scott.). Correct Composition (The Century Company). Rules for Compositors and Printers (Oxford University Press). The writer’s colleagues in the Department of English in Cornell University have greatly helped him in the preparation of his manuscript. The following books are recommended for reference or further study: in connection with Chapters II and IV. Manual of Style. George McLane Wood. Interlude on Jargon. L. John Leslie Hall. The Art of Writing (Putnams). 1 . Suggestions to Authors (United States Geological Survey). Extracts from the Style-Book of the Government Printing Office (United States Geological Survey). Howard Collins. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript.). Kelly. George McLane Wood. Mr. James P. George McLane Wood has kindly consented to the inclusion under Rule 11 of some material from his Suggestions to Authors.

for the secrets of style. however. .2 CHAPTER I. to the study of the masters of literature. he will probably do best to follow the rules. INTRODUCTORY It is an old observation that the best writers sometimes disregard the rules of rhetoric. to write plain English adequate for everyday uses. Unless he is certain of doing as well. let him look. the reader will usually find in the sentence some compensating merit. When they do so. attained at the cost of the violation. After he has learned. by their guidance.

the possessive Jesus’. But such forms as Achilles’ heel. Form the possessive singular of nouns with ’s Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write. Charles’s friend Burns’s poems the witch’s malice This is the usage of the United States Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press. Isis’ temple are commonly replaced by the heel of Achilles the laws of Moses the temple of Isis The pronominal possessives hers.Chapter II E LEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE 1. its. and oneself have no apostrophe. Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is. yours. for righteousness’ sake. theirs. Moses’ laws. and such forms as for conscience’ sake. 3 .

even if only a single term comes before it. is or is not parenthetic. This rule is difficult to apply..4 CHAPTER II. the writer may safely omit the commas. but headstrong He opened the letter. Colonel Nelson paid us a visit yesterday. such as however. it is frequently hard to decide whether a single word. is indefensible. If the interruption to the flow of the sentence is but slight. unless you are pressed for time. . Such punctuation as Marjorie’s husband. red. read it and made a note of its contents. But whether the interruption be slight or considerable. and blue honest. In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction. In the names of business firms the last comma is omitted. energetic. use a comma after each term except the last Thus write. Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas The best way to see a country. This is also the usage of the Government Printing Office and of the Oxford University Press. Shipley and Company The abbreviation etc. white. he must never omit one comma and leave the other. is always preceded by a comma. as Brown. is to travel on foot. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE 2. 3. My brother you will be pleased to hear. or a brief phrase. is now in perfect health.

Similar clauses introduced by where and when are similarly punctuated. At that time Corsica had but recently been acquired by France. and where are non-restrictive. Nether Stowey. statements supplementing those in the principal clauses. In 1769. The candidate who best meets these requirements will obtain the place. when Napoleon was born. they do not limit the application of the words on which they depend.5 Non-restrictive relative clauses are. set off by commas. Nether Stowey is only a few miles from Bridgewater. the sentence cannot be split into two independent statements. Later it became more and more interested. but add. Each sentence is a combination of two statments which might have been made independently. followed by one. In these sentences the clauses introduced by which. Restrictive relative clauses are not set off by commas. where Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. when. . and jr. in accordance with this rule. parenthetically. Unlike those above. Coleridge wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at Nether Stowey. The audience. In this sentence the relative clause restricts the application of the word candidate to a single person. The audience was at first indifferent. is a few miles from Bridgewater. became more and more interested. Napoleon was born in 1769. Corsica had but recently been acquired by France. which had at first been indifferent. The abbreviations etc. are always preceded by a comma. and except at the end of a sentence.

6. In this perilous situation. Sentences of this type. and the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. there is still one chance of escape. 4. 16. may seem to be in need of rewriting. If a parenthetic expression is preceded by a conjunction. the second clause has the appearance of an after-thought. Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause The early records of the city have disappeared. He saw us coming. not after it. the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. The situation is perilous. the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. . but there is still one chance of escape. place the first comma before the conjunction. is the least specific of connectives. it indicates only that a relation exists between them without defining that relation. and. the relation is that of cause and result. 5.6 CHAPTER II. there is still one chance of escape. Or the subordinate clauses might be replaced by phrases: Owing to the disappearance of the early records of the city. As they make complete sense when the comma is reached. Although the situation is perilous. Used between independent clauses. and unaware that we had learned of his treachery. and 18 should afford sufficient guidance. In the example above. isolated from their context. Further. The sentences quoted in this section and under Rules 4. 7. The two sentences might be rewritten: As the early records of the city have disappeared. greeted us with a smile. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE Similar in principle to the enclosing of parenthetic expressions between commas is the setting off by commas of phrases or dependent clauses preceding or following the main clause of a sentence.

and while (in the sense of and at the same time) likewise require a comma before the conjunction. If a dependent clause. see the next section. and an occasional loose sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and gives the reader a certain relief. but if we are prepared to act promptly. there is still one chance of escape. no comma is needed after the conjunction. or an introductory phrase requiring to be set off by a comma. It is nearly half past five. Stevenson’s romances are entertaining. grammatically complete and not joined by a conjunction. they are full of exciting adventures. The situation is perilous. It is of course equally correct to write the above as two sentences each. precedes the second independent clause. or. It is nearly half past five. Stevenson’s romances are entertaining. Consequently. We cannot reach town before dark. unstudied writing. If a conjunction is inserted. nor. Do not join independent clauses by a comma If two or more clauses. Two-part sentences of which the second member is introduced by as (in the sense of because). are to form a single compound sentence. the proper mark of punctuation is a semicolon. For two-part sentences connected by an adverb. the proper mark is a comma (Rule 4). . for. Stevenson’s romances are entertaining. we cannot reach town before dark. for they are full of exciting adventures. They are full of exciting adventures. 5. loose sentences of the type first quoted are common in easy. replacing the semicolons by periods. But a writer should be careful not to construct too many of his sentences after this pattern (see Rule 14).7 But a writer may err by making his sentences too uniformly compact and periodic.

or thus. however. 6. In both these examples. and we cannot reach town before dark. A simple correction. and lived in half a dozen countries. Note that if the second clause is preceded by an adverb. . there is danger that the writer who uses it at all may use it too often. is to omit the word so. The gate swung apart. so I had difficulty in finding my way about. therefore. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE It is nearly half past five. a comma is usually permissible: Man proposes. and are alike in form. He was an interesting talker. in writing. and the following word begun with a small letter. the portcullis was drawn up. to avoid using so in this manner. Coming home from Liverpool to New York. I had difficulty in finding my way about. I had never been in the place before. besides. the semicolon is still required. the first period should be replaced by a comma. the bridge fell. God disposes. usually serviceable. If the clauses are very short. Do not break sentences in two In other words. it is best. and not by a conjunction. In general. and begin the first clause with as: As I had never been in the place before. do not use periods for commas. so.8 CHAPTER II. A man who had traveled all over the world. then. such as accordingly. I met them on a Cunard liner several years ago.

The word walking refers to the subject of the sentence. 4. Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition. A soldier of proved valor. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject Walking slowly down the road. On his arrival) in Chicago. Without a friend to counsel him. . his friends met him at the station. adjectives. When he arrived (or. the temptation proved irresistible. The writer must. A soldier of proved valor. walking slowly down the road. however. he was entrusted with the defence of the city. Young and inexperienced. they entrusted him with the defence of the city. 7. he saw a woman accompanied by two children.9 It is permissible to make an emphatic word or expression serve the purpose of a sentence and to punctuate it accordingly: Again and again he called out. he must recast the sentence: He saw a woman. Young and inexperienced. If the writer wishes to make it refer to the woman. be certain that the emphasis is warranted. Without a friend to counsel him. they should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature. he found the temptation irresistible. not to the woman. On arriving in Chicago. nouns in apposition. and adjective phrases come under the same rule if they begin the sentence. Rules 3. and that he will not be suspected of a mere blunder in punctuation. 5. I thought the task easy. and 6 cover the most important principles in the punctuation of ordinary sentences. his friends met him at the station. accompanied by two children. the task seemed easy to me. No reply.

Divide between double letters. but not for the whole word. unless this involves cutting off only a single letter. in accordance with their formation and pronunciation If there is room at the end of a line for one or more syllables of a word. The principles most frequently applicable are: A.10 CHAPTER II. No hard and fast rule for all words can be laid down. Divide the word according to its formation: know-ledge (not knowl-edge) Shake-speare (not Shakes-peare) de-scribe (not des-cribe) atmo-sphere (not atmos-phere) B. or cutting off only two letters of a long word. Being in a dilapidated condition. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous. Divide words at line-ends. divide the word. unless they come at the end of the simple form of the word: Apen-nines refer-ring Cincin-nati tell-ing The treatment of consonants in combination is best shown from examples: . Divide “on the vowel:” edi-ble (not ed-ible) ordi-nary reli-gious regu-lar deco-rative propo-sition espe-cial oppo-nents classi-fi-ca-tion sions possible) presi-dent (three divi- C. I was able to buy the house very cheap. 8.

.11 for-tune presump-tuous sub-stan-tial (either division) instruc-tion incen-diary pic-ture illus-tration indus-try sug-ges-tion The student will do well to examine the syllable-division in a number of pages of any carefully printed book.


B. For example. each of which should be made the subject of a paragraph. After the paragraph has been written. there may be no need of subdividing it into topics. Critical discussion. The extent of subdivision will vary with the length of the composition. 13 . a subject requires subdivision into topics. The beginning of each paragraph is a signal to him that a new step in the development of the subject has been reached. however. One slightly longer might consist of two paragraphs: A. the setting forth of a single idea. Ordinarily. Account of the work. a narrative merely outlining an action. to aid the reader. it should be examined to see whether subdivision will not improve it. a brief account of a single incident. a short notice of a book or poem might consist of a single paragraph.Chapter III E LEMENTARY COMPOSITION PRINCIPLES OF 9. a brief summary of a literary work. Thus a brief description. any one of these is best written in a single paragraph. of course. The object of treating each topic in a paragraph by itself is. or if you intend to treat it very briefly. Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic If the subject on which you are writing is of slight extent.

a new paragraph begins with each change of speaker. Characters. If the poem is a narrative in the third person throughout. Account of the event. Setting. and would then state the subject and outline its development. that is. In treating either of these last two subjects.14 CHAPTER III. Usually. What the event led up to. The application of this rule. if these call for explanation. Kind of poem. For what chiefly remarkable. Purpose. A novel might be discussed under the heads: A. single sentences should not be written or printed as paragraphs. indicating the relation between the parts of an exposition or argument. An exception may be made of sentences of transition. B. each speech. What led up to the event. C. Facts of composition and publication. B. In dialogue. The contents of paragraphs C and D would vary with the poem. paragraph C would indicate the actual or imagined circumstances of the poem (the situation). C. Relationship to other works. the writer would probably find it necessary to subdivide one or more of the topics here given. might consist of seven paragraphs: A. D. B. C. written for a class in literature. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION A report on a poem. D. when . E. A historical event might be discussed under the heads: A. As a rule. Treatment of subject. Plot. is a paragraph by itself. paragraph C need contain no more than a concise summary of the action. Paragraph D would indicate the leading ideas and show how they are made prominent. F. G. Wherein characteristic of the writer. metrical form. even if only a single word. or would indicate what points in the narrative are chiefly emphasized. Subject.

1 Topic sentence. is that in which A. particularly in exposition and argument. he may. and to retain the purpose in mind as he ends it. end it in conformity with the beginning Again. therefore. B. or its function as a part of the whole. For this reason. it is generally better to set apart the transitional sentences as a separate paragraph. the most generally useful kind of paragraph. This can sometimes be done by a mere word or phrase (again. to be properly enjoyed. may need to be expressed. If more than one such sentence is required. by denying the converse. or even in pairs. or with an unimportant detail. Sometimes. its relation to what precedes. According to the writer’s purpose. As a rule. by defining its terms. for the same reason) in the topic sentence. 1 Now. he may establish it by proofs. . He may make the meaning of the topic sentence clearer by restating it in other forms.15 dialogue and narrative are combined. In a long paragraph. relate the body of the paragraph to the topic sentence in one or more of several different ways. as indicated above. begin each paragraph with a topic sentence. it is expedient to precede the topic sentence by one or more sentences of introduction or transition. or he may develop it by showing its implications and consequences. the object is to aid the reader. it is no longer a walking tour in anything but name. The practice here recommended enables him to discover the purpose of each paragraph as he begins to read it. 10. he may carry out several of these processes. is best learned from examples in well-printed works of fiction. If the paragraph forms part of a larger composition. Ending with a digression. 2 The meaning made clearer by denial of the contrary. and C. the succeeding sentences explain or establish or develop the statement made in the topic sentence. the final sentence either emphasizes the thought of the topic sentence or states some important consequence. a walking tour should be gone upon alone. is particularly to be avoided. the topic sentence comes at or near the beginning. 2 If you go in a company. however. by giving illustrations or specific instances. it is something else and more in the nature of a picnic.

Walking Tours. 8 There should be no cackle of voices at your elbow.” 7 When I am in the country. Stevenson. in language amplified and heightened to form a strong conclusion. in paraphrase. 6-7 The same reason as stated by Hazlitt. and ends in a peace that passes comprehension. and neither trot alongside a champion walker. stated in two forms. of the quotation from Hazlitt. I wish to vegetate like the country. because freedom is of the essence. 8 Repetition. 3 The topic sentence repeated. in abridged form. 5 The same reason. 9 Final statement of the fourth reason. 9 And so long as a man is reasoning he cannot surrender himself to that fine intoxication that comes of much motion in the open air. and supported by three reasons. “of walking and talking at the same time. because you should be able to stop and go on. 4 And you must be open to all impressions and let your thoughts take colour from what you see. and follow this way or that. 6 “I cannot see the wit. . ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION 3 A walking tour should be gone upon alone. nor mince in time with a girl. that begins in a sort of dazzle and sluggishness of the brain. stated in still another form. 5 You should be as a pipe for any wind to play upon. and because you must have your own pace.” says Hazlitt.16 CHAPTER III. which is the gist of all that can be said upon the matter. to jar on the meditative silence of the morning. 4 A fourth reason. the meaning of the third (“you must have your own pace”) made clearer by denying the converse. as the freak takes you.

The Political Value of History.17 1 It was chiefly in the eighteenth century that a very different conception of history grew up. 2 The meaning of the topic sentence made clearer. and of art. 1 Topic sentence. prosperity. 5 They looked especially in history for the chain of causes and effects. -Lecky. to explain or illustrate the successive phases of national growth. the changes that take place in manners or beliefs. 4 They sought rather to write a history of peoples than a history of kings. 4 The definition explained by contrast. and modification of political constitutions. 3 The history of morals. . and hoped by applying the experimental method on a large scale to deduce some lessons of real value about the conditions on which the welfare of society mainly depend. of industry. the dominant ideas that prevailed in successive periods. 6 They undertook to study in the past the physiology of nations. the rise. and adversity. fall. in a word. 2 Historians then came to believe that their task was not so much to paint a picture as to solve a problem. 6 Conclusion: an important consequence of the new conception of history. the new conception of history defined. 5 The definition supplemented: another element in the new conception of history. 3 The definition expanded. all the conditions of national wellbeing became the subjects of their works. of intellect.

The next ten or twelve pages were filled with a curious set of entries. would become a mannerism. This is much better than My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me. less bold. . The campaign opened with a series of reverses. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION In narration and description the paragraph sometimes begins with a concise.18 CHAPTER III. are often without even this semblance of a topic sentence. The break between them serves the purpose of a rhetorical pause. Use the active voice The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive: I shall always remember my first visit to Boston. The latter sentence is less direct. If the writer tries to make it more concise by omitting “by me. The breeze served us admirably. if too often used. throwing into prominence some detail of the action. At length I thought I might return towards the stockade. 11. comprehensive statement serving to hold together the details that follow. Another flight of steps. More commonly the opening sentence simply indicates by its subject with what the paragraph is to be principally concerned. and they emerged on the roof. however.” My first visit to Boston will always be remembered. The brief paragraphs of animated narrative. He picked up the heavy lamp from the table and began to explore. and less concise. But this device.

Failing health compelled him to leave college. in a paragraph on the tastes of modern readers. the second. It was forbidden to export gold (The export of gold was prohibited). that will always remember this visit? This rule does not. This is true not only in narrative principally concerned with action. The reason that he left college was that his health became impaired. as in these examples. The habitual use of the active voice. The dramatists of the Restoration are little esteemed to-day. Many a tame sentence of description or exposition can be made lively and emphatic by substituting a transitive in the active voice for some such perfunctory expression as there is. The sound of the falls could still be heard. . Dead leaves the ground. Gold was not allowed to be exported. which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary. He soon repented his words. As a rule. of course. mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice. makes for forcible writing. determine which voice is to be used. It was not long before he was very sorry that he had said what he had. however. The first would be the right form in a paragraph on the dramatists of the Restoration. The need of making a particular word the subject of the sentence will often. There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground. or could be heard.19 it becomes indefinite: is it the writer. but in writing of any kind. Modern readers have little esteem for the dramatists of the Restoration. covered The sound of the falls still reached our ears. avoid making one passive depend directly upon another. or the world at large. or some person undisclosed.

He was not very often on time.” 12. It has been proved that he was seen to enter the building. In both the examples above. cannot Compare the sentence. The army was rapidly mobilized. Bianca insignificant. non-committal language. “The export of gold was prohibited. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION He has been proved to have been seen entering the building. colorless. A common fault is to use as the subject of a passive construction a noun which expresses the entire action.” in which the predicate “was prohibited” expresses something not implied in “export. . The women in The Taming of the Shrew are unattractive. the word properly related to the second passive is made the subject of the first. A survey of this region was made in 1900. He did not think that studying Latin was much use. This region was surveyed in 1900. Confirmation of these reports cannot be obtained. These reports be confirmed. never as a means of evasion. Put statements in positive form Make definite assertions.20 CHAPTER III. Avoid tame. before correction. Shakespeare does not portray Katharine as a very admirable character. Use the word not as a means of denial or in antithesis. hesitating. Katharine is disagreeable. nor does Bianca remain long in memory as an important character in Shakespeare’s works. Mobilization of the army was rapidly carried out. He usually came late. The Taming of the Shrew is rather weak in spots. leaving to the verb no function beyond that of completing the sentence. He thought the study of Latin useless.

the reader is dissatisfied with being told only what is not. as a rule. but simple justice. but that every word tell. All three examples show the weakness inherent in the word not. Many expressions in common use violate this principle: the question as to whether there is no doubt but that used for fuel purposes whether (the question whether) no doubt (doubtless) used for fuel . he wishes to be told what is. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short. consequently. is indefinite as well as negative.21 The last example. or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline. for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. Omit needless words Vigorous writing is concise. a paragraph no unnecessary sentences. before correction. Hence. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words. Consciously or unconsciously. it is better to express a negative in positive form. Not that I loved Caesar less. Negative words other than not are usually strong: The sun never sets upon the British flag. is simply a guess at the writer’s intention. but Rome the more. The corrected version. not honest not important did not remember did not pay any attention to did not have much confidence in dishonest trifling forgot ignored distrusted The antithesis of negative and positive is strong: Not charity. 13.

.22 CHAPTER III. and the active voice more concise than the passive. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION he is a man who in a hasty manner this is a subject which His story is a strange one. and the like are often superfluous. nature. which was. His brother. character. owing to the fact that in spite of the fact that call your attention to the fact that I was unaware of the fact that the fact that he had not succeeded the fact that I had arrived since (because) though (although) remind you (notify you) I was unaware that (did not know) his failure my arrival See also under case. he hastily this subject His story is strange. system in Chapter V. Nelson’s last battle As positive statement is more concise than negative. Who is. many of the examples given under Rules 11 and 12 illustrate this rule as well. In especial the expression the fact that should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs. a member of the same firm Trafalgar. who is a member of the same firm Trafalgar. which was Nelson’s last battle His brother.

with their mechanical symmetry and sing-song. . The witches told him that this wish of his would come true. but. This led him to wish to become king of Scotland. and the Boston Symphony Orchestra furnished the instrumental music. May 10.) 14. Macbeth was very ambitious. Macbeth achieved his ambition and realized the prediction of the witches by murdering Duncan and becoming king of Scotland in his place. The fourth concert will be given on Tuesday. or in any piece of good English prose.23 A common violation of conciseness is the presentation of a single complex idea. (26 words. and a large audience was in attendance. as the preface (Before the Curtain) to Vanity Fair. a series soon becomes monotonous and tedious. the second introduced by a conjunction or relative. Edward Appleton was the soloist.) Encouraged by his wife. Macbeth murdered Duncan. (55 words. Contrast with them the sentences in the paragraphs quoted under Rule 10. the paragraph above is bad because of the structure of its sentences. Encouraged by his wife. step by step. using as connectives and. Mr. when an equally attractive programme will be presented. The third concert of the subscription series was given last evening. He was thus enabled to succeed Duncan as king. Although single sentences of this type may be unexceptionable (see under Rule 4). when. The interest aroused by the series has been very gratifying to the Committee. those consisting of two co-ordinate clauses. in a series of sentences which might to advantage be combined into one. and it is planned to give a similar series annually hereafter. where. who. and while. while the latter proved itself fully deserving of its high reputation. The king of Scotland at this time was Duncan. Apart from its triteness and emptiness. Avoid a succession of loose sentences This rule refers especially to loose sentences of a particular type. The former showed himself to be an artist of the first rank. An unskilful writer will sometimes construct a whole paragraph of sentences of this kind. and less frequently. these last in non-restrictive senses (see under Rule 3). which.

second. or. the panish. loose or periodic. while now the laboratory method is employed. see the paragraph from Stevenson quoted under Rule 10. 15. not. The unskilful writer often violates this principle. It is true that in repeating a statement in order to emphasize it he may have need to vary its form. by periodic sentences of two clauses. requires that expressions of similar content and function should be outwardly similar.24 CHAPTER III. summer. but also. Familiar instances from the Bible are the Ten Commandments. by sentences. Spanish. The likeness of form enables the reader to recognize more readily the likeness of content and function. and the Portuguese In spring. the Italians. first. by sentences of two clauses joined by a semicolon. or in winter Correlative expressions (both. he seems unable or afraid to choose one form of expression and hold to it. science was taught by the textbook method. Formerly. By this principle. Formerly. not only. The French. the Beatitudes. summer. science was taught by the textbook method. of three clauses-whichever best represent the real relations of the thought. from a mistaken belief that he should constantly vary the form of his expressions. and the like) should be followed by the same grammatical construction. . an article or a preposition applying to all the members of a series must either be used only before the first term or else be repeated before each term. For illustration. and the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Many violations of this rule can be corrected by rearranging the sentence. The left-hand version gives the impression that the writer is undecided or timid. and Portuguese The French. But apart from this. The right-hand version shows that the writer has at least made his choice and abided by it. or winter (In spring. and. Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form This principle. now it is taught by the laboratory method. third. he should follow the principle of parallel construction. he should recast enough of them to remove the monotony. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION If the writer finds that he has written a series of sentences of the type described. in summer. replacing them by simple sentences. the Italians. but. or in winter) In spring. that of parallel construction. either.

Wordsworth. in the fifth book of The Excursion. This objection. and keep apart those which are not so related. bring together the words. what if a writer needs to express a very large number of similar ideas. 16. The objection is that the interposed phrase or clause needlessly interrupts the natural order of the main clause. A time not for words. the injustice of the measure. be separated by a phrase or clause that can be transferred to the beginning. say twenty? Must he write twenty consecutive sentences of the same pattern? On closer examination he will probably find that the difficulty is imaginary. that the measure is unjust. does not usually hold when the order . second. as a rule. that his twenty ideas can be classified in groups. when treated in a Bessemer converter. so far as possible. gives a minute description of this church. In the fifth book of The Excursion. See also the third example under Rule 12 and the last under Rule 13. The ceremony was both long and tedious. that are related in thought. and that he need apply the principle only within each group. The subject of a sentence and the principal verb should not. A time not for words. cast iron is changed into steel. Cast iron. is changed into steel. It may be asked. By treatment in a Bessemer converter. but action Either you must grant his request or incur his ill will. however. My objections are. but for action You must either grant his request or incur his ill will. second. Keep related words together The position of the words in a sentence is the principal means of showing their relationship. first. that it is unconstitutional. first. Wordsworth gives a minute description of this church. that it is unconstitutional. My objections are. Otherwise he had best avoid the difficulty by putting his statements in the form of a table. and groups of words.25 It was both a long ceremony and very tedious. The writer must therefore.

his brother. In his eye was a look that boded mischief. grandson of William Henry Harrison. He published in Harper’s Magazine three articles about his adventures in Spain. If several expressions modify the same word. This is a portrait of Benjamin Harrison. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION is interrupted only by a relative clause or by an expression in apposition. which has been variously judged. which were published in Harper’s Magazine. Nor does it hold in periodic sentences in which the interruption is a deliberately used means of creating suspense (see examples under Rule 18).26 CHAPTER III. because in such a combination no real ambiguity can arise. immediately after its antecedent. The Duke of York. who A noun in apposition may come between antecedent and relative. The relative pronoun should come. He wrote three articles about his adventures in Spain. If the antecedent consists of a group of words. which has been variously judged The grandson of William Henry Harrison. The Superintendent of the Chicago Division. if possible next to the word they modify. who was regarded with hostility by the Whigs Modifiers should come. There was a look in his eye that boded mischief. they should be so arranged that no wrong relation is suggested. Benjamin Harrison. who became President in 1889. This is a portrait of Benjamin Harrison. unless this would cause ambiguity. the relative comes at the end of the group. who A proposal to amend the Sherman Act. to amend the Sherman Act A proposal to amend the muchdebated Sherman Act William Henry Harrison’s grandson. He became President in 1889. who A proposal. . grandson of William Henry Harrison. as a rule.

” “the speaker added. though he may use the past if he prefers. In presenting the statements or the thought of some one else. he should preferably use the present. on “My Experiences in Mesopotamia” at eight P.E. story. He only found two mistakes. In summarizing a poem. by the past perfect. Joyce will give a lecture on Tuesday evening in Bailey Hall. Not all the members were present. to which the public is invited. and then waste no words in repeating the notification. Major R. But whichever tense be used in the summary. if in the past. In summaries.” “he stated. On Tuesday evening at eight P. 17. whichever tense the writer chooses. Shifting from one tense to the other gives the appearance of uncertainty and irresolution (compare Rule 15). Joyce will give in Bailey Hall a lecture on “My Experiences in Mesopotamia. E. meanwhile. . a past tense in indirect discourse or in indirect question remains unchanged. the writer should always use the present tense.” or the like.” The public is invited.” “the speaker then went on to say. The Legate inquires who struck the blow. He should indicate clearly at the outset. Juliet.M. or novel. Apart from the exceptions noted. as in summarizing an essay or reporting a speech. An unforeseen chance prevents Friar John from delivering Friar Lawrence’s letter to Romeo. has been compelled to drink the potion on Tuesday night. he should use throughout. He found only two mistakes. the writer should avoid intercalating such expressions as “he said. once for all. that what follows is summary.M.27 All the members were not present. Major R. antecedent action should be expressed by the perfect..” “the author also thinks. If the summary is in the present tense. keep to one tense In summarizing the action of a drama. with the result that Balthasar informs Romeo of her supposed death before Friar Lawrence learns of the nondelivery of the letter. owing to her father’s arbitrary change of the day set for her wedding.

Humanity has hardly advanced in fortitude since that time. But in the criticism or interpretation of literature the writer should be careful to avoid dropping into summary. of the work he is discussing. thrusting away all private aims. lighted on America. summaries of one kind or another may be indispensable. and for children in primary schools it is a useful exercise to retell a story in their own words. seeking for Spain a westward passage to the Indies as a setoff against the achievements of Portuguese discoverers. he will as a rule do better not to take them up singly in chronological order. he may cite numerous details to illustrate its qualities. Because of its hardness. to devote yourselves unswervingly and unflinchingly to the vigorous and successful prosecution of this war. if the scope of his discussion includes a number of works. or group of words. Four centuries ago. though it has advanced in many other ways. in handbooks of literature. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION In notebooks. The word or group of words entitled to this position of prominence is usually the logical predicate. the new element in the sentence. which the writer desires to make most prominent is usually the end of the sentence. that is.28 CHAPTER III. Humanity. The effectiveness of the periodic sentence arises from the prominence which it gives to the main statement. He may find it necessary to devote one or two sentences to indicating the subject. Similarly. because of its hardness. has advanced in many other ways. but to aim from the beginning at establishing general conclusions. but it has hardly advanced in fortitude. this steel is principally used in making razors. But he should aim to write an orderly discussion supported by evidence. Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end The proper place for the word. not a summary with occasional comment. in newspapers. With these hopes and in this belief I would urge you. Christopher Columbus. since that time. 18. one of the Italian mariners whom the decline of their own republics had put at the service of the world and of adventure. laying aside all hindrance. This steel is principally used for making razors. . or the opening situation. as it is in the second example.

Through the middle of the valley flowed a winding stream. and to the paragraphs of a composition. The principle that the proper place for what is to be made most prominent is the end applies equally to the words of a sentence.29 The other prominent position in the sentence is the beginning. the subject of a sentence must take the position of the predicate. Deceit or treachery he could never forgive. like works of nature. the fragments of this architecture may often seem. Any element in the sentence. To receive special emphasis. So vast and rude. fretted by the action of nearly three thousand years. In the sentence. to the sentences of a paragraph. at first sight. other than the subject. becomes emphatic when placed first. the emphasis upon kings arises largely from its meaning and from the context. Great kings worshipped at his shrine. A subject coming first in its sentence may be emphatic. but hardly by its position alone. .


the final stop comes before the last mark of parenthesis. cited as documentary evidence. Formal quotations. exactly as if the expression in parenthesis were absent. Write them in figures or in Roman notation. except that the final stop is omitted unless it is a question mark or an exclamation point. after the title or heading of a manuscript. 1918 Rule 3   Chapter XII 352d Infantry Parentheses. I went to his house yesterday (my third attempt to see him). A sentence containing an expression in parenthesis is punctuated. The provision of the Constitution is: “No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state. August 9. as may be appropriate. outside of the marks of parenthesis.” 31 . On succeeding pages.Chapter IV A   FEW MATTERS OF FORM Headings.   Numerals. or its equivalent in space. are introduced by a colon and enclosed in quotation marks.)   Quotations. begin on the first line. (When a wholly detached expression or sentence is parenthesized. Do not spell out dates or other serial numbers. if using ruled paper. Leave a blank line. but he had left town. The expression within is punctuated as if it stood by itself. He declares (and why should we doubt his good faith?) that he is now certain of success.

He lives far from the madding crowd.32 CHAPTER IV. In scholarly work requiring exact references. volume. “Gratitude is a lively sense of benefits to come. not in the body of the sentence.” Aristotle says. Wordsworth’s enthusiasm for the Revolution was at first unbounded: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive. simply insert III. line. except when referring by only one of them. As a general practice. are begun on a fresh line and centred. The same is true of colloquialisms and slang. . scene. abbreviate titles that occur frequently. but not enclosed in quotation marks. Punctuate as indicated below. of verse. “Art is an imitation of nature. Proverbial expressions and familiar phrases of literary origin require no quotation marks. In the second scene of the third act In III. These are the times that try men’s souls. or more. But to be young was very heaven! Quotations introduced by that are regarded as in indirect discourse and not enclosed in quotation marks.” Quotations of an entire line. give the references in parenthesis or in footnotes. A FEW MATTERS OF FORM Quotations grammatically in apposition or the direct objects of verbs are preceded by a comma and enclosed in quotation marks. Omit the words act. page. giving the full forms in an alphabetical list at the end. ii. truth beauty. book.ii (still better. 14).   References. Hamlet is placed under guard (IV. Keats declares that beauty is truth.ii in parenthesis at the proper place in the sentence) After the killing of Polonius. I recall the maxim of La Rochefoucauld.

33 2 Samuel i:17-27 Othello II. A Tale of Two Cities. the Odyssey. The usage of editors and publishers varies. scholarly usage prefers italics with capitalized initials.iii. except in writing for a periodical that follows a different practice.iii. Use italics (indicated in manuscript by underscoring). For the titles of literary works. The Newcomes. 264-267. The Iliad. Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities. . As You Like It. others using Roman with capitalized initials and with or without quotation marks. 155-161   Titles. III. some using italics with capitalized initials. To a Skylark. Omit initial A or The from titles when you place the possessive before them.


Case. As good or better than.” or “Go ahead. the proper correction is likely to be not the replacement of one word or set of words by another. My opinion is as good as his. the word is usually unnecessary. or better (if not better).) All right. usual state of affairs. “Agreed. Bid. The past tense is bade. Idiomatic in familiar speech as a detached phrase in the sense. .” In these two senses. the rooms were poorly ventilated. Expressions of this type should be corrected by rearranging the sentence. Takes the infinitive without to.Chapter V W ORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED (Many of the words and expressions here listed are not so much bad English as bad style. but the replacement of vague generality by definite statement. Whether is sufficient. The Concise Oxford Dictionary begins its definition of this word: “instance of a thing’s occurring. the commonplaces of careless writing. As illustrated under Feature. Always written as two words. It has rarely been the case that any mistake has been made. My opinion is as good or better than his.” In other uses better avoided. In many cases. As to whether. see under Rule 13. Few mistakes have been made. 35 Many of the rooms were poorly ventilated.

accomplish (not to be confused with affect.” Effect. Clever. “believe to be. Used indiscriminately by some speakers. This word has been greatly overused.” “very delicate . to a drama. May be used with a dependent clause if this sense is clearly involved: “He claimed that he was the sole surviving heir. pp. between objects regarded as essentially of different order.” where “considered” means “examined” or “discussed. A mannerism of this kind. because of. Compare. between objects regarded as essentially of the same order. means result. or owing to. 103-106. 68-71. Suggestions to Authors.” “I consider him thoroughly competent. used from a mere habit of wordiness.36 CHAPTER V.” Dependable. With object-noun. Due to. trustworthy. “claimed to be” would be better. it is best restricted to ingenuity displayed in small matters. Paris has been compared to ancient Athens. As noun. much as others use very.” “effects in pale green. to intensify any and every statement. “The lecturer considered Cromwell first as soldier and second as administrator. means lay claim to. it may be compared with modern London. Character.” Compare. is even worse in writing.” “losses due to preventable fires. music. which means “to influence”). Incorrectly used for through. in adverbial phrases: “He lost the first game. due to carelessness. and other arts: “an Oriental effect.” In correct use related as predicate or as modifier to a particular noun: “This invention is due to Edison. pp. and Quiller-Couch. To compare to is to point out or imply resemblances. Acts of a hostile character Hostile acts Claim. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED See Wood. Congress may be compared with the British Parliament. or charge. as verb. painting. to compare with is mainly to point out differences. As noun.” (But even here. often loosely used in perfunctory writing about fashions. The Art of Writing. bad in speech. to a battle. Certainly.) Not to be used as a substitute for declare. maintain. Thus life has been compared to a pilgrimage. A needless substitute for reliable. means to bring about. Often simply redundant. Not followed by as when it means. vb. Consider.

and hence not to be used if one of these would be insufficient. prepare. (Better use the same number of words to tell what Miss A. or if the programme has already been given. Equivalent to and the rest. Another hackneyed word. or that the climate of California is delightful.37 effects. At the end of a list introduced by such as. Factor.” “subtle effects. Use this word only of matters of a kind capable of direct verification. the expressions of which it forms part can usually be replaced by something more direct and idiomatic. Not to be used of persons. A hackneyed word.) A feature of the entertainment especially worthy of mention was the singing of Miss A. Heavy artillery is playing a larger and larger part in deciding battles. etc. But such conclusions as that Napoleon was the greatest of modern generals. that is. like factor it usually adds nothing to the sentence in which it occurs. however incontestable they may be. are not properly facts. and so forth. that lead melts at a certain temperature. Feature.” The writer who has a definite meaning to express will not take refuge in such vagueness. if the reader would be left in doubt as to any important particulars. Fact. Fix. make firm or immovable. for example. to tell something of how she sang. sang. mend.” “broad effects. etc. to be avoided. fasten. On the formula the fact that. He won the match by being better trained. . not of matters of judgment. in the advertising sense of offer as a special attraction. That a particular event happened on a given date. Etc. Colloquial in America for arrange. Heavy artillery is becoming an increasingly important factor in deciding battles. are facts. Least open to objection when it represents the last terms of a list already given in full. or immaterial words at the end of a quotation. or any similar expression. His superior training was the great factor in his winning the match. see under Rule 13.” “a charming effect was produced by. As a verb. In writing restrict it to its literary senses. is incorrect.

However you advise him. Line in the sense of course of procedure. “His troubles are less than mine” means “His troubles are not so great as mine. At last. The roads were almost impassable. or except in familiar style. and less is thought of as meaning a less quantity or amount. fewer to number. also spoke along the same lines. also spoke. “where the round number.” It is. The roads were almost impassable.” “I dislike that kind of notoriety. When however comes first. Spain is a country which I have always wanted to visit. but has been so much overworked. In the meaning nevertheless. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED He is a man who. He is very ambitious. he never lost heart. thought. not to come first in its sentence or clause. however. He had less men than in the previous campaign. to the same effect. “The signers of the petition were less than a hundred. He is a man who is very ambitious. .38 CHAPTER V. B. a hundred. we succeeded in reaching camp. Less. he will probably do as he thinks best. that a writer who aims at freshness or originality had better discard it entirely. Not to be used as a substitute for rather (before adjectives and verbs). However discouraging the prospect. particularly in the phrase along these lines. along these lines. it means in whatever way or to whatever extent. correct to say. Should not be misused for fewer. is something like a collective noun. Restrict it to its literal sense: “Amber is a kind of fossil resin. He had fewer men than in the previous campaign. B. however. see Rule 13. conduct. Kind of.” The same holds true of sort of. for something like (before nouns). I have always wanted to visit Spain. Mr. Less refers to quantity. However. A common type of redundant expression. Line. Mr. However.” “His troubles are fewer than mine” means “His troubles are not so numerous as mine. we at last succeeded in reaching camp. is allowable.

in accordance with the unvarying usage of English prose from Old English times. not yet fully accepted as good English. Literal. One hundred and one.. etc. the reader cannot tell whether the poems have to do with natural scenery. make up. run out. no longer in good use. ofttimes. because of its commonness. “One of the most interesting developments of modern science is. Oftentimes. Adverbial phrase. and others.” “poems about nature. Meant to be more emphatic than lose. dry up. win out. Archaic forms. but actually less so. literally. sign up. the untracked wilderness. register up. or near at hand. Near by. Often simply redundant. Retain the and in this and similar expressions. Most. Most everybody Most all the time Almost everybody Almost all the time Nature. turn out. out and up form idiomatic combinations: find out. The modern word is often. if not better. One of the most. He is studying French literature. used like character. Lose out is not. Acts of a hostile natureHostile acts Often vaguely used in such expressions as “a lover of nature. or the habits of squirrels. Avoid beginning essays or paragraphs with this formula. Often incorrectly used in support of exaggeration or violent metaphor. rural life. is as good. A literal flood of abuse Literally dead with fatigue A flood of abuse Almost dead with fatigue (dead tired) Lose out. Not to be used as an adjective.39 He is studying along the line of French literature. Near. The same holds true of try out. each distinguishable in meaning from the simple verb. as. cheer up.” Unless more specific statements follow. Not to be used for almost. though the analogy of close by and hard by seems to justify it. use neighboring.” “Switzerland is . the sunset. With a number of verbs.

He possessed great courage.” Not to be used for aspect or topic. not to be confused with the public. it is simply threadbare and forcible-feeble.” “so delightful. Not to be used as a mere substitute for have or own. Sort of. He was the fortunate possessor of He had great courage (was very brave). Avoid. The one mile and two mile runs were won by Jones and Cummings respectively. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED one of the most interesting countries of Europe. So. If of “six people” five went away. The people is a political term. Works of fiction are listed under the names of their authors. The one mile and two mile runs were won by Jones and by Cummings.” On the use of so to introduce clauses.” “the last phase. but it should not appear in writing on ordinary subjects. from the public comes artistic appreciation or commercial patronage. it may be necessary to use respectively. He owned Respective. . see Rule 4. From the people comes political support or opposition. Means a stage of transition or development: “the phases of the moon. in place of persons. In some kinds of formal writing. People. Works of fiction are listed under the names of their respective authors. See under Kind of. in writing.” There is nothing wrong in this. respectively. The word people is not to be used with words of number.40 CHAPTER V. as in geometrical proofs. the use of so as an intensifier: “so good. Another phase of the subject Another point other question) (an- Possess. These words may usually be omitted with advantage. how many “people” would be left? Phase.” “so warm.

but. requires the pronoun to be in the singular. Very. unless the antecedent is or must be feminine. somebody. “A friend of mine told me that they. Where emphasis is necessary. Frequently used without need. any one. “He refused to state his objections. Thanking you in advance. In this use it is best replaced by a semicolon.” Student body. or from uncertainty which of the two connectives is the more appropriate. though implying more than one person. Viewpoint.” or to avoid committing oneself to either. some one. “It will not be worth my while to write to you again.41 State. Write point of view. the intention being either to avoid the awkward “he or she. use words strong in themselves. but with even less justification.” Simply write. but do not misuse this. many a man. for view or opinion. A needless and awkward expression. every one. “Thanking you. which. is the use of the plural pronoun with the antecedent anybody. A common inaccuracy is the use of the plural pronoun when the antecedent is a distributive expression such as each. Not to be used as a mere substitute for say. This sounds as if the writer meant. Avoid the indiscriminate use of this word for and. either from a mere desire to vary the connective. Dayton has adopted the commission system of government. everybody.” and if the favor which you have requested is granted. Similar to this. Some bashful speakers even say. and although. Many writers use it frequently as a substitute for and or but. A member of the student body Popular with the student body The student body passed resolutions. Use this word sparingly. as. The dormitory system Dayton has adopted government by commission. . They.” Use he with all the above words. as many do. etc. While. write a letter of acknowledgment. Restrict it to the sense of express fully or clearly. System. Dormitories A student Liked by the students The students passed resolutions. meaning no more than the simple word students. remark. each one.

the nights are often chilly. at the same time I wish it were employed in a better cause. the writer will do well to use while only with strict literalness. While I admire his energy. The office and salesrooms are on the ground floor. shows why the use of while is incorrect. Its use as a virtual equivalent of although is allowable in sentences where this leads to no ambiguity or absurdity. whom he said would send him the money The man whom he thought was his friend His brother. The paraphrase. as shown by the paraphrase. In general. at the same time the nights are often chilly. Often incorrectly used for who before he said or similar expressions. Compare: While the temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime. in the sense of during the time that. Whom.42 CHAPTER V. I wish it were employed in a better cause. I admire his energy. the rest of the building is devoted to manufacturing. Although the temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime. WORDS AND EXPRESSIONS COMMONLY MISUSED This is entirely correct. while the rest of the building is devoted to manufacturing. the nights are often chilly. who he said would send him the money The man who (that) he thought was his friend (whom he thought his friend) . The office and salesrooms are on the ground floor. when it is really the subject of a following verb. His brother. The temperature reaches 90 or 95 degrees in the daytime.

Strictly applicable only to actions: “Is it worth while to telegraph?” His books are not worth reading (not worth one’s while to read. is usually sufficient. I should not have succeeded without his help. and from its brevity. do not repay reading). His books are not worth while. Once a year he visited the old mansion. The equivalent of shall in indirect quotation after a verb in the past tense is should. more emphatic. A conditional statement in the first person requires should. Once a year he would visit the old mansion. He predicted that before long we should have a great surprise. Overworked as a term of vague approval and (with not) of disapproval. the past tense. The use of worth while before a noun (“a worth while story”) is indefensible. Would. . not would. To express habitual or repeated action.43 Worth while. not would. without would.


some time (except the sense of formerly) as two words. every one. to-morrow (but not together) with hyphen. Write any one. T HE E ND 45 . to-night. some one.Chapter VI W ORDS OFTEN MISSPELLED accidentally advice affect beginning believe benefit challenge criticize deceive definite describe despise develop disappoint duel ecstasy effect existence fiery formerly humorous hypocrisy immediately incidentally latter led lose marriage mischief murmur necessary occurred parallel Philip playwright preceding prejudice principal privilege pursue repetition rhyme rhythm ridiculous sacrilegious seize separate shepherd siege similar simile too tragedy tries undoubtedly until Write to-day.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful