The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White is a venerable classic when it comes to writing. Not every writer has read it and not everyone who has read it likes it. But I do.
In particular, Strunk and White’s “11 Elementary Principles of Composition” are still relevant and critical. I highly suggest learning and applying these concepts to your own work, no matter what type of writing you do.
Sure, you can break the rules sometimes…but understand the rules first.
Strunk and White’s “11 Elementary Principles of Composition”
Choose a suitable design and stick to it.In other words, decide the style you want to write your piece in and then be consistent throughout.
Your content is built one word at a time, one sentence at a time, one paragraph at a time. Be sure to make each line build up to the next one, and make each line support the one before it.
Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
…as opposed to passive voice, at least as much as possible. Grammarly can help you out with that!
Use the active voice.
Instead of writing as sentence as a negative, just be direct and “positive.”
Put statements in positive form.
Nobody likes a wishy-washy sentence…except maybe politicians!
Use definite, specific, concrete language.
I was going to say something here…but I omitted it!
Omit needless words.
There’s nothing wrong with loose sentences, i.e. one with an independent clause at the beginning, followed by a dependent clauses. Just don’t go overboard with them…
Avoid a succession of loose sentences.
“Coordination means combining two sentences or ideas that are of equal value.”
Express coordinate ideas in similar form.
Basically, keep your sentences tight and associated words next to each other versus scattered throughout the sentence. And keep in mind, “omit needless words.”
Keep related words together.
It’s crazy how some writers switch tenses within a paragraph, leaving readers confused about the timeline. Just pick a tense already!
In summaries, keep to one tense.
It’s almost as if ol’ Strunk and White predicated the rise of the “Call to Action,” except here they aren’t just talking about the end of a piece, but even the end of each line that requires an emphatic word or phrase.
Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end.