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More Spunk than Strunk

December 14, 2009

Everybody who has ever put pen to paper to do some kind of creative writing has seen or at least heard of the Strunk style guide. First penned in 1819 it is a timeless reference book for English style and usage.  Now, I won’t go as far to say that “Strunk is Bunk!” but it occurs to me that stylized writing outside the confines of the reference seems much more enjoyable.

I have been reading Constance Hales, Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose, for awhile now and love her ability to make a writing book fun. I highly recommend this reference to any writer serious about improving their craft.

I knew I was onto something special when I read the first paragraph of the forward:

Oh, the sentence! The shuddering, sinuous, piquant, incandescent, delicate, delirious, sulking, strident possibilities of it all! A sentence can loll à l’odalisque, zap, implore, insist, soar, or simply lay out the facts. This handful of words, each with its own humble or brazen function, lies at the heart of every literary genre, every letter, memo, article, thesis, seduction, threat, and retort. In any book you handle, sentences abound. Here, in Sin and Syntax, they strut their stuff in all their guises and moods. From this exploration you’ll emerge not only a more sharp-witted writer, but also a more attuned reader.  (endquote)

What are you reading that helps you be a better writer?  Care to share?


Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
– William Strunk

 

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One Comment
  1. December 19, 2009 3:13 am

    Well, you know me. No matter what day it is, chances are I’m reading some dead guy’s book. As a result, I have to wage combat against archaic turns of phrase in my writing.

    Luckily, I’ve had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sit down and help fine tune Haunting Injustice as it gets ready for press and, frankly, exposure to your fabulous story telling ability has done more for me than countless chapters of Strunk.

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