Strunk & White Is Still a Crock at 50

By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 14, 2009 2:10 PM CDT
Strunk and White.   (©ToastyKen)
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(Newser) – Strunk and White’s classic writing guide, The Elements of Style, has some “harmless” things to say about style, Geoffrey Pullum writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education, but its assault on grammar is unforgivable. The “toxic mix of purism, atavism, and personal eccentricity is not underpinned by a proper grounding in English grammar,” Pullum writes of the book, 50 this month.

Though Pullum takes exception to some of Strunk and White’s pronouncements, particularly about passive clauses, the real problem is how poorly the book is written. Its “contempt for its own grammatical dictates seems almost willful, as if the authors were flaunting the fact that the rules don’t apply to them.” The book does not deserve an anniversary fete: “Strunk and White are just wrong about the facts of English syntax.”