Keeping it Simple; The Elements of Style

Elements of Style: William Strunk & E.B. White

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White has graced my bookshelf for numerous years, I can’t find my copy.  During the house renovations it was packed (or given) away. I was familiar with E.B. White, having read Charlotte’s Webb (along with a few of his other books) as a young child. However, I hadn’t heard about William Strunk until reading the book. Many times, I’ve curled up with the book and read it like a novel. It helped a lot with my freelance writing.

I appreciate the rules, listed within the slim book but I don’t always follow that style in my personal writing. In freelance writing, I usually follow this style when writing health related articles. This book is a reminder that I don’t need a lot of words, to make a point.

Writing for Livestrong magazine, I realized quickly not following guidelines, the copy editor will send back my work with a rewrite request. Admittedly, I needed a gentle reminder with my first article. I tried to sneak in unnecessary words, even though I’d read the guidelines. Naturally, it was sent back with a rewrite request, I made the changes, my rewrite was accepted and the article published.

Admittedly, the hardest part (for me) was writing in third person (avoiding “I”, “we”, or “you”) while still writing in active voice. I haven’t done that in a while. Because of that, I took my time to write the articles before submitting them.  The three topics I wrote were; Ways to lower your cholesterol, benefits of B12 and iron, and how to burn 750 calories. I enjoyed working in vegetarian choices with the first two. Admittedly, I can write those articles without thinking, since those are topics I’ve researched religiously. However, I do  include references supporting my claims. Livestrong requires that with all its writers.

Yesterday I ordered the 50th anniversary edition of The Elements of Style. It arrived at my doorstep this afternoon, now that’s efficient service.

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Since I don’t do any writing other than my blog and blog comment, I wouldn’t have much use for a book like that. I couldn’t tell you what most of the rules of usage are for sentence structure, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t butcher the language very much. For some reason or another, English just “clicked” for me in school. I guess I internalized most it.

Poor grammar and bad style in technical documents really bothers me. One of my responsibilities was to write and maintain training manuals on my assigned topics. I always endeavored to make my manuals easy to read and technically accurate. I had two electronic systems that I wrote so that operators with a mechanical background would be able to understand the material.

Unfortunately, most of my fellow instructors only aimed for technical accuracy. Sometimes, it didn’t seem to matter how readable it was so long as there were no technical errors.

Though I never take them off the shelf, I do have “The Little, Brown Handbook,” ” A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations,” “Copyediting – A Practical Guide,” and MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Little, Brown is from college. The rest were all purchased when I was first building content online — never did get much use out of them.
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I would love to see your stuff on lowering cholesterol. Where can I see it? And I wish you a fabulous and successful week.


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Simple, clean and usable are the best elements of design.
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Healthy Opal

Hey @Rev,

Thanks for stopping by. You can’t beat that. I follow similar guidelines with my websites. 🙂
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Thanks for the recommended reading. Best to do the homework before starting to submit articles for publishing eh??!! Informative article which should help all aspiring freelance writers.
Patricia Perth Australia
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Healthy Opal

Hi @Patricia,

Agreed, I’m always looking for ways to improve myself. Although I’m happy with where I’m at, I also know additional places I can be too.
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Hi Opal,

Thanks for sharing this information. Sounds like a book that I need to add to my library. When I order, I will come back and order via you.

Have a wonderful day!

Evelyn recently posted..A Happy Countenance Does the Heart Good

Healthy Opal

Hi @Evelyn,

Thanks, It’s a very slim book but it can make you realize at times, well you don’t need to add a lot of fluff. Over the years, I’ve noticed when writing health related topics, those that have read my articles seemed to like simple and concise information. In that aspect, I’ve been appreciative for Demand Studios since I’m forced to stick to a format.


You know, that’s one of the problems of writing for sites like that. It can really put a crimp in your personal style. I know it’s for someone else, but when you’ve gone to the sites where those articles are sometimes you see some product that makes you wonder how it got approved while they gave you grief.
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Hello @Mitch,

I agree with you, it was tough getting used to the various styles. There are a few styles that I haven’t tried yet, such as “Lists”. I’m very comfortable with the About style, since my writing style when writing those types of pieces are similar, so I’m sticking with that.

Felicia @ No Deposit Poker

Hi Opal,
The book you mentioned will prove to be very useful for writers that have their work published on magazines and other types of papers. I too have difficulty writing in third person, but I guess I don’t have to adjust drastically since I only get to write on blogs and online.
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