Blog Better Week: Strunk & White’s Elements of Style


This week I’m focusing on how you can improve your blog. So far I’ve talked about why you should schedule blog posts, how to write a product review, how to spice up your blog with pictures, and how to get people to find you online, and today I’m wrapping things up with a book recommendation.  My next series in a couple of weeks will focus on social networking basics.

Everything I know about style, I learned from two dead white guys.

Watching Project Runway is Not Enough
Watching Project Runway is Not Enough

Strunk and White’s classic book The Elements of Style crams a lot into less than 100 pages, and it’s less than $15.  It covers basic rules of grammar, explains frequently misused words, and inspires readers to become better writers.

My first reaction upon reading the Approach to Style section was a revolt.  I don’t want my blog to read like a faceless newspaper article or an encyclopedia entry.  However, the more I dug into the book, the more I realized that it encouraged the reader to follow some simple guidelines in their efforts to build their own unique voice.  When the book’s authors put similar passageways from Faulkner and Hemingway side-by-side to show how two writers convey the same concept, it just plain works.

It’s chock full of examples from famous books I know I should have read a long time ago.  Reading each snippet reinforces the notion that writing really is an art, and that every time we publish a blog entry, Strunk and White each turn another revolution in their graves.

The hilarious presenter and blogger Jimmy May (BlogTwitter) first prompted me to buy this book, and I owe him a debt of gratitude.  I’d also like to thank Mrs. Weathersby, my senior year English teacher, and point out that I learned a valuable lesson in her class.  Although she was horrified to discover that I’d written John Szegda’s term paper for him, I did indeed learn that writing pays off.

I highly recommend The Elements of Style to any blogger who wants to improve their craft, and you can buy it from Amazon.

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14 Comments. Leave new

  • I keep a copy of this book in my laptop bag, which is with me most of the time. During college, I had to read this book at least twice and it has made remarkable improvements in my writing style. I cannot recommend it enough. Once you’ve read it, I suggest moving on to William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well”.

  • I have really enjoyed this post series over the last week Brent and who knows, I may even have learned something too! Great work and thanks for taking the time to share it with us all.

  • I got the book a while back, and promptly read it. The book is amazing, not in only what it does say. It makes one think; and one who thinks, writes better.

    One interesting point is if…, then in a sentence. Does it require a comma?

    If there is no comma then it requires “then”.
    If there is a comma, “then” is not required.

    I asked this question to Purdue University’s writing lab and they responded saying both are required. Well, Strunk & White use a comma but no “then” throught the book.

    The book was worth it just for that. 🙂

  • I’m already reading “Getting Things Done.” I’ll add this one to my list. 🙂

  • Thanks for doing this series on blogging. Your related posts on the subject are very helpful also. One thing I’ve wondered about is the practice of using trackbacks/pingbacks. I’ve never used them.

    • Great question! I do use trackbacks because I find it helpful to follow discussions across the web. If another blogger posts something that mentions me, then I find out about it automatically and I can jump straight to their post to see what they said. Also, my readers can see what other bloggers were saying.

    • I should add – WordPress handles trackbacks/pingbacks automatically by default, so if any WordPress bloggers are reading this and they don’t know what trackbacks/pingbacks are, don’t worry. It’s the little automated-looking things that pop up in your comments every now and then when someone blogs about you. WordPress does them for you automatically when you blog about other people, too.

  • Any idea how to keep your WordPress install to stop pinging your own referenced posts back? It makes it look like I’m padding my comments.

  • Great series indeed, Brent.

    I’m thrilled to see that I’m not the only grammar geek in the community.

    Now, if only we can raise awareness re: “commas following the penultimate item in a series” or as it is more commonly known, the “serial comma” issue.

    For the record, I align with Strunk & White (as well as Fowler) in favor of “red, white, & blue”.

  • I don’t know If I said it already but …This blog rocks! I gotta say, that I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read..Tony Brown


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