Friday, April 17, 2009

Happy 50th, Strunk & White

Strunk and White’s wildly popular Elements of Style turned 50 yesterday, and the occasion spurred quite an unexpected fracas in some academic circles. This slim and straightforward guide is said to be the only style manual ever to have appeared in bestseller lists, and in recent years it has even been celebrated with an illustrated edition and a musical adaptation. (No…seriously.) Not bad for a 50-year-old style guide of fewer than a hundred pages, eh?

But not everyone is in love with Elements. In fact, instead of cutting cake and lighting candles for yesterday’s birthday celebration, one indignant academic crashed the party with a stick of dynamite in hand. Professor Geoffrey K. Pullum of the University of Edinburgh marked the anniversary of the guide’s publication with an article called “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice.”

For better or worse, William Strunk and E. B. White’s little book has had a profound impact on the way we’ve been writing for the past 50 years. So if you haven’t yet read it, you might want to pick up a copy and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

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