Book Category: Writing,

The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition (book summary)

Author: William Strunk Jr., E. B. White
Life Changing Principles
Quality of Writing
Overall Value
pros: Fun, bite-sized, clear
cons: None
overall rating


E.B White’s former professor composed this mini-guide to editing content and the “style” of minimalism in writing, which he in turn published on a larger scale and added some of his own wisdom to. Initially starting as a “beware of these” grammar rule set, the book moves into a more philosophical look at the composition of words and how elusive true writing style can be, and how to build your own style following some key, structural rules.


  • Stringent, strict editing of tiny unnecessary words give birth to style.
  • Never adorn writing for the sake of writing as you begin to compose: get to the point.
  • The best way to strengthen your writing is to start with a clear, strong grammatical foundation.


  • Don’t focus on the “garnish” in language: instead, focus on making the work the most clear it can possibly be.
  • Don’t imitate others consciously, write what comes naturally with your own voice.
  • Avoid “overwriting” or “overstating” in writing.
  • If a name ends with an “s,” it is still perfectly acceptable to add an apostrophe “s” after the name to suggestion possession, unless it’s a formal name. For instance, “Chris’s parka” is a legal move. 


In some cases, the best design is no design, as with a love letter, which is simply an outpouring, or with a casual essay, which is a ramble. But in most cases, planning must be a deliberate prelude to writing.

In general, remember that paragraphic calls for a good eye as well as a logical mind. Enormous blocks of print look formidable to readers, who are often reluctant to tackle them.

Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind?

If you doubt that style is something of a mystery, try rewriting a familiar sentence and see what happens.

The approach to style is by way of plainness, simplicity, orderliness, sincerity.

Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.

Avoid fancy words.