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"The Elements of Writing"
By: Mark  Thompson


In his book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King states that most writing books are filled with “bullshit.” He would know. According to the Guinness World Records, King is currently the highest paid novelist in the world. The best-selling author does, provide his readers with one exception: The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White.
King couldn’t be closer to the truth. Though The Elements of Style is only eight-five pages, Strunk and White discuss some important skills that every writer should keep in mind while writing.
“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts,” say Strunk and White.
Why is omitting needless words important? “Every word and every sentence should move a story forward or tell us something about a character,” explains Bruce Wark, a professor of Journalism at the University of King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “Otherwise, the word or sentence serves no purpose and is just taking up space.”
Show, don’t tell. This may be a common tip, but beginning writers tend to ignore or simply forget this advice. Strunk and White state, “It is seldom advisable to tell at all.” Susan Rogers, a writing tutor at the University of King’s College, agrees: “Don’t tell me a character is angry,” she says, “show me that he is angry through his actions or his speech.”
However, make sure that showing is used sparingly. Beginning writers often describe and describe, which can be annoying for readers. In The Elements of Style, Strunk and White remind writers not to explain too much. “Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating.”
Strunk and White stress that the “active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive.” They also say that habitual use of the active voice makes bold, forcible writing. Susan Rogers agrees: “Instead of saying ‘the dead man was being dragged across the floor by two men’ say ‘the two men dragged the dead man across the floor’.”
In On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King states that the road to Hell is paved with adverbs. Most professional writers would probably agree. Adverbs can be redundant and unnecessary (remember omitting needless words?) “Do not write tangledly,” Strunk and White say, “the word itself is a tangle.”
What about procrastination? How do you force yourself to sit down and write? “Doing it is what it’s all about,” says Larry Beinhart, a best-selling mystery novelist. “You do it or you don’t. You start and you keep going until it’s over.”
Or you don’t.


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