The following are excerpts from the book The Elements of Style by William Strunk, jr., and E.B.White. ... If you are a writer, please read these and consider them all carefully. If you use these rules to ruthlessly Strunk your work, you might get more readers, because the writing is good, even if you don't get chapters up as quickly as some others...
An Approach to Style...
1. Place yourself in the background - A careful and honest writer does not need to worry about style. As you become proficient in the use of language, your style will emerge, because you yourself will emerge..
2. Write in a way that comes naturally - using words and phrases that come readily to hand. But do not assume that because you have acted naturally your product is without flaw. ...Never imitate consciously, but do not worry about being an imitator; take pains instead to admire what is good.
3. Work from a suitable design. - Before beginning to compose something, gauge the nature and extent of the enterprise and work from a suitable design. Design informs even the simplest structure, whether of brick and steel or of prose.
4. Write with nouns and verbs. - Not adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn't been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place. This is not to disparage adjectives and adverbs; they are indispensable parts of speech. Occasionally they surprise us with their power, in general however, it is nouns and verbs, not their assistants that give good writing its toughness and colour.
5. Revise and rewrite. - Revising is part of writing. Few writers are so expert that they can produce what they are after on the first try. Often you will discover that there are serious flaws in the arrangement of the material, calling for transpositions. Above all, do not be afraid to experiment with what you have written.
6. Do not overwrite. - Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating. It is always a good idea to reread your writing later and ruthlessly delete the excess. (We call that Strunking.)
7. Do not overstate. - When you overstate, readers will be instantly on guard, and everything that has preceded your overstatement as well as everything that follows it will be suspect in their minds becasue they have lost confidence in your judgement or your poise. Overstatement is one of the common faults. One overstatement diminishes the whole, and has the power to destroy, for readers, the object of your enthusiasm.
8. Avoid the use of qualifiers. - Rather, very, little, pretty - these are leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words. The constant use of the adjective little (except to indicate size) is particularily debilitating; we should all try to do a little better, we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is a rather important one, and we are pretty sure to violate it now and then.
9. Do not affect a breezy manner. - Do not confuse spontaneity with genius. The breezy style is often the wok of an egocentric, the person who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of general interest and that uninhibited prose creates high spirits and carries the day.
10. Use orthodox spelling. - The practical objection to unaccepted and oversimpliefied spellings is the disfavour with which they are received by readers. They distract readers' attention and exhaust their patience. They read the form though automatically; they read the abbreviation tho and mentally supply the missing letter, a the cost of a fraction of their attention. The writer has defeated her own purpose.
11. Do not explain too much. - It is seldom advisable to tell all. Be sparing, for instance, in the use of adverbs after "he said," "she replied," and the like: "he said consolingly"; "she replied grumblingly." Let the conversation itself disclose the speaker's manner or condition. Dialogue heavily wieghted after the attributive verb is cluttery and annoying.
12. Do not construct awkward adverbs. - Adverbs are easy to build. Take an adjective or a participle, add -ly, and behold! you have an adverb. But you'd probably be better off without it. Do not write tangledly. The word itself is a tangle. Do not even write tiredly. No body says tangledly and not many people say tiredly. Words that are not used orally are seldom the ones to put on paper.
13. Make sure the reader knows who is speaking. - Dialogue is a total loss unless you indicate who the speaker is. Make sure your attributives do not awkwardly interrupt a spoken sentence.
14. Avoid fancy words. - Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by the twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able.
15. Do not use dialect unless your ear is good. - Do not attempt to use dialect unless you are a devoted student of the tongue you hope to reproduce. If you use dialect, be consistent. The reader will become impatient or confused upon finding two or more versions of the same word or expression.
16. Be clear. - When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not try to fight your way through against the terrible odds of syntax.
17. Do not inject opinion. - Unless there is a good reason for its being there, do not inject opinion into a piece of writing. Opinions scattered indiscriminately about leave the mark of egotism on a work.
18. Use figures of speech sparingly. - The simile is a common device and a useful one, but similes coming in rapid fire, one right on top of another, are more distracting than illuminating. Readers need time to catch their breath; they can't be expected to compare everything with something else, and no relief in sight.
19. Do not take shortcuts at the cost of clarity. - Do not use initials for the names of organizations or movements unless you are certain the initials will be readily understood. Write things out. Not everyone knows that MADD means Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Many shortcuts are self-defeating; they waste the reader's time instead of conserving it.
20. Avoid foreign languages - The writer will occasionally find it convenient or necessary to borrow from other languages. Some writers, however, from sheer exuberance or a desire to show off, sprinkle their work liberally with foreign expressions, with no regard for the reader’s comfort. It is a bad habit. Write in English.
21. Prefer the standard to the offbeat. - Young writers will be drawn at every turn toward eccentricities in language. They will hear the beat of new vocabularies, the exciting rhythms of special segments of their society, each speaking a language of its own. All of us come under the spell of these unsettling drums; the problem for beginners is to listen to them, learn the words, feel the vibrations, and not be carried away.
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