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.



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

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

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

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

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

Although the situation is perilous. the relation is that of cause and result. and unaware that we had learned of his treachery. In the example above. may seem to be in need of rewriting. The situation is perilous. Sentences of this type. there is still one chance of escape. and 18 should afford sufficient guidance. As they make complete sense when the comma is reached. the second clause has the appearance of an after-thought. place the first comma before the conjunction. The two sentences might be rewritten: As the early records of the city have disappeared. Further. it indicates only that a relation exists between them without defining that relation. Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause The early records of the city have disappeared. but there is still one chance of escape. 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. If a parenthetic expression is preceded by a conjunction. the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. He saw us coming. In this perilous situation. Or the subordinate clauses might be replaced by phrases: Owing to the disappearance of the early records of the city. 5. The sentences quoted in this section and under Rules 4. there is still one chance of escape. greeted us with a smile. isolated from their context. 4.6 CHAPTER II. Used between independent clauses. the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. not after it. 7. is the least specific of connectives. and the story of its first years can no longer be reconstructed. 6. 16.

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

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

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

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

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. .


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful