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.



the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated. 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). English Usage (Scott. Suggestions to Authors (United States Geological Survey). but the experience of its writer has been that once past the essentials. Manual of Style. Kelly.). Mr. George McLane Wood has kindly consented to the inclusion under Rule 11 of some material from his Suggestions to Authors. Howard Collins. De Vinne. George McLane Wood. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. L. It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention (in Chapters II and III) on a few essentials. Correct Composition (The Century Company). Rules for Compositors and Printers (Oxford University Press). Workmanship in Words (Little. Chicago University Press. The book covers only a small portion of the field of English style. The numbers of the sections may be used as references in correcting manuscript. Author and Printer (Henry Frowde). students profit most by individual instruction based on the problems of their own work. It aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style. F. George McLane Wood. John Leslie Hall. 1 . in connection with Chapters III and V. Interlude on Jargon. Brown and Co. Foresman and Co. which he prefers to that offered by any textbook. and that each instructor has his own body of theory.).Chapter I I NTRODUCTORY This book is intended for use in English courses in which the practice of composition is combined with the study of literature. James P. especially the chapter. Horace Hart. The following books are recommended for reference or further study: in connection with Chapters II and IV. T.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and 6 cover the most important principles in the punctuation of ordinary sentences. 7. walking slowly down the road. Without a friend to counsel him. 4. he was entrusted with the defence of the city. 5.9 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. they entrusted him with the defence of the city. nouns in apposition. and that he will not be suspected of a mere blunder in punctuation. the task seemed easy to me. I thought the task easy. . The word walking refers to the subject of the sentence. however. they should be so thoroughly mastered that their application becomes second nature. Participial phrases preceded by a conjunction or by a preposition. not to the woman. he found the temptation irresistible. A soldier of proved valor. the temptation proved irresistible. A soldier of proved valor. and adjective phrases come under the same rule if they begin the sentence. accompanied by two children. A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject Walking slowly down the road. Rules 3. On arriving in Chicago. When he arrived (or. No reply. be certain that the emphasis is warranted. he must recast the sentence: He saw a woman. adjectives. On his arrival) in Chicago. If the writer wishes to make it refer to the woman. The writer must. Young and inexperienced. Without a friend to counsel him. his friends met him at the station. Young and inexperienced. his friends met him at the station. he saw a woman accompanied by two children.

Divide words at line-ends. No hard and fast rule for all words can be laid down. but not for the whole word.10 CHAPTER II. The principles most frequently applicable are: A. 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 the word. unless they come at the end of the simple form of the word: Apen-nines refer-ring Cincin-nati tell-ing The treatment of consonants in combination is best shown from examples: . 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 between double letters. 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. or cutting off only two letters of a long word. Being in a dilapidated condition. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous. unless this involves cutting off only a single letter.

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. .


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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