The Little Book
My exegesis prof had us buy a book called The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. To us and many other modern students, it was known as “Strunk and White”, but on the campus of Cornell in the early 20th, it was simply “the little book”. It was self published by Strunk, and was a requirement for his classes.
In the late 50’s White, one of his former students, was asked to edit it for publishing, after two revisions, the “little book” I have here on my desk is the result of that work.
The book is a simple and straightforward discussion of grammar and writing. It’s not so much as stylebook, like the APA or MLA, but a primer on the elements of good writing: Rules of usage, principles of composition, matters of form, commonly misused words and phrases. Here’s an example:
Flammable. An oddity, chiefly useful in saving lives. The common word meaning “combustible” is inflammable. But some people are thrown off by the in- and think inflammable means “not combustible.” For this reason, trucks carrying gasoline or explosive are now marked FLAMMABLE. Unless you are operating such a truck and hence are concerned with the safety of children an illiterates, use inflammable.
I think that if we put a grammar text this simple and straightforward in every classroom in America, and had children learn these simple rules before we foisted actual stylebooks on them, writing skill and attention to detail might see a marked increase.
This book is totally worth the read for anyone who uses the written word.