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.



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

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

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

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

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

not after it. and unaware that we had learned of his treachery. Or the subordinate clauses might be replaced by phrases: Owing to the disappearance of the early records of the city. and. isolated from their context. The situation is perilous. there is still one chance of escape. it indicates only that a relation exists between them without defining that relation. the relation is that of cause and result. Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause The early records of the city have disappeared. and 18 should afford sufficient guidance. 16. 7. Used between independent clauses. and the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. He saw us coming. there is still one chance of escape. but there is still one chance of escape.6 CHAPTER II. 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. If a parenthetic expression is preceded by a conjunction. As they make complete sense when the comma is reached. the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. place the first comma before the conjunction. 5. Further. The sentences quoted in this section and under Rules 4. Sentences of this type. In the example above. . 4. the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. the second clause has the appearance of an after-thought. In this perilous situation. 6. Although the situation is perilous. may seem to be in need of rewriting. is the least specific of connectives. The two sentences might be rewritten: As the early records of the city have disappeared.

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

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

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

or cutting off only two letters of a long word. unless this involves cutting off only a single letter. Divide words at line-ends. divide the word.10 CHAPTER II. 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. 8. The principles most frequently applicable are: A. 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. 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: . but not for the whole word. No hard and fast rule for all words can be laid down. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous. I was able to buy the house very cheap. 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. Divide between double letters. Being in a dilapidated condition.

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. .


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a paragraph no unnecessary sentences. but that every word tell. Negative words other than not are usually strong: The sun never sets upon the British flag. before correction. Omit needless words Vigorous writing is concise. All three examples show the weakness inherent in the word not. for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. it is better to express a negative in positive form. as a rule.21 The last example. 13. but Rome the more. consequently. Consciously or unconsciously. or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline. he wishes to be told what is. is indefinite as well as negative. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words. but simple justice. Hence. The corrected version. 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 . 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. is simply a guess at the writer’s intention. Not that I loved Caesar less. the reader is dissatisfied with being told only what is not.

In especial the expression the fact that should be revised out of every sentence in which it occurs. and the active voice more concise than the passive. His brother. character. nature. 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. who is a member of the same firm Trafalgar. a member of the same firm Trafalgar. many of the examples given under Rules 11 and 12 illustrate this rule as well. which was Nelson’s last battle His brother. ELEMENTARY PRINCIPLES OF COMPOSITION he is a man who in a hasty manner this is a subject which His story is a strange one. .22 CHAPTER III. which was. Nelson’s last battle As positive statement is more concise than negative. Who is. and the like are often superfluous. system in Chapter V.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


some time (except the sense of formerly) as two words. Write any 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. to-night. every one. T HE E ND 45 . to-morrow (but not together) with hyphen. some one.

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