In which she reads and eats. And does not stop.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

I impulse-checked-out this book from the library one day, then impulse-bought SunChips that evening, and came home and gorged myself on both.

(This was not planned, the book-and-chips binge. It was all nothing but impulsive. Sometimes things get crazy around here.)

I meant to eat a few chips while I read the first few pages, at which point I’d put down the books and the chips and do something virtuous, productive, and worthy of praise.

Instead, I ate half the bag of chips for dinner (it was one of those big bags, guys) and gulped down half a style manual at the same time.

Yes, this is my life.

The thing is: I was dealing with addictive substances!

Strunk & White pulled me right in, and I kept feeling relief followed by horror, as I realized which guidelines I follow religiously and which I violate like a felon.*

(Cripe: Is it any surprise I needed to comfort myself with chips?)

So here are a few of their edicts that sum things up:

  • “Use definite, specific, concrete language.”  (p. 37)
  • “Write with nouns and verbs.”  (p. 105)
  • “Omit needless words.” (p. 39)

I’ve been doing this one consciously lately, and it feels almost as good as decluttering my house.

Strunk & White sometimes sound cantankerous, but sometimes they just make me smile.

Here’s one instance: “Many nouns have lately been pressed into service as verbs. Not all are bad, but all are suspect.” And then their example: “Be prepared for kisses when you gift your girlfriend with this merry scent.” (p. 82)    (“Gift” as a verb makes me gag. Anyone with me on this?)

And, one of my favorites: “Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and
sometimes nauseating.” (p. 105)

Amen, brothers!


*I’ve probably just broken at least 7 of their rules. And I’m too damn lazy to cite chapter and
verse. If anyone else wishes to do so, have at it. And pass the chips, please.