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.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 CHAPTER II. Divide words at line-ends. or cutting off only two letters of a long word. Being in a dilapidated condition. 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 “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 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. The principles most frequently applicable are: A. unless this involves cutting off only a single letter. unless they come at the end of the simple form of the word: Apen-nines refer-ring Cincin-nati tell-ing The treatment of consonants in combination is best shown from examples: . divide the word. but not for the whole word. 8. Divide between double letters. I was able to buy the house very cheap. No hard and fast rule for all words can be laid down. ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE Sentences violating this rule are often ludicrous.

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. .


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

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

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

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

the dominant ideas that prevailed in successive periods. 2 The meaning of the topic sentence made clearer. in a word.17 1 It was chiefly in the eighteenth century that a very different conception of history grew up. of intellect. of industry. 5 The definition supplemented: another element in the new conception of history. 3 The history of morals. 6 Conclusion: an important consequence of the new conception of history. fall. 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. and adversity. 1 Topic sentence. prosperity. the changes that take place in manners or beliefs. 4 They sought rather to write a history of peoples than a history of kings. 4 The definition explained by contrast. and 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. and modification of political constitutions. the rise. 3 The definition expanded. -Lecky. 6 They undertook to study in the past the physiology of nations. 5 They looked especially in history for the chain of causes and effects. The Political Value of History. all the conditions of national wellbeing became the subjects of their works. . and of art. to explain or illustrate the successive phases of national growth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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