Saturday, May 16, 2009

Rant: Strunk and White -- a blight on the English language

A writing topic I often find myself in arguments about is the merit and validity of the oft-cited reference The Elements of Style. Mandated by high school English teachers everywhere, this is apparently the only grammar reference many writers own.

I hate it. I have always hated it, ever since it first left a foul taste in my mouth my freshman year. Oddly, most writers--well, greater than 51% of the writers I have had this conversation with--adore it. They worship it. They cite it as an authority on grammar. Which it is not, and which it was never intended to be (really--just read White’s introduction).

Like most religious schisms, these discussions ultimately go nowhere. The Strunkians go forth grasping to their chests a dog-eared copy of the worst book ever written on the English language, while the rest of us go on to learn grammar and adopt our own styles.

Anyway, people with grammar expertise far superior to my own have now thoroughly and irrefutably debunked this horrible book. They explain its many grotesqueries and weaknesses eloquently and in great detail so I will refer you to the primary sources rather than trying to paraphrase:

Nuff said.

1 comment:

gruchall said...

Amen brother!

I hoard books, and I happily gave my copy away. I could never parse from their examples the correct usage from the incorrect usage. There are definitely much better books on grammar and on style.