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Elements of Style

? Why we keep secrets in the mainstream press |


| Blogging Backlash ?

January 17, 2006

Elements of Style

Heather Green

While Steve is weaning himself from his fascinating Math cover story, I am diving into "The Elements of Style." I got a beautifully illustrated, red bound copy for Christmas that I have been reading. Frankly, I am trying to use it to improve my blogging.

When I read over posts later, I realize that my writing isn't as direct when I blog. I use extra words and a passive voice. I'm not sure why. Maybe I am a little lazier because I don't have an editor looking over my copy, or I write more quickly, or I'm still unsure about my blogging voice.

Whatever it is, I thought it would be fun to write about some of the advice from the Elements of Style here and whether it makes sense or not for blogging. Here's an easy little piece of advice that stuck in my head like a bad song this weekend. (Ok, Ok, so Strunk & White didn't use blogging examples. Artistic license...)

"Use the proper case of a pronoun.

The difference between a verbal participle and a gerund is not always obvious but note what is really said in each of the following.

Do you mind me asking a question about your blogging?

Do you mind my asking a question about your blogging?

In the first sentence, the querie objection is to me, as opposed to other members of the group, asking a question. In the second example, the issue is whether a question may be asked at all."

10:32 AM

How To

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Allow me to speed things up.

"Potential readers can make snap decisions in just 50 milliseconds." This is important for design considerations.

Posted by: Jim Dermitt at January 17, 2006 11:31 AM

That red photo of the book cover on my feeds this am reminded me to pull mine out of my knapsack. Bought a copy for myself for Christmas.

I expect I'll make better use of the hardback illustrated than the paperback with the coffee spill marks.

Posted by: Kevin O'Keefe at January 17, 2006 11:59 AM

Hey Kevin, I felt the same way too when I got it. It's a lot more fun to thumb through because of the illustrations!

Posted by: Heather Green at January 17, 2006 12:23 PM

A while back there was a post about "style" on this blog and I had posted a question about where I can sharpen my skills. You just answered my question!


Posted by: David Porter at January 17, 2006 04:35 PM

I got an autographed copy as a Christmas gift. It is really a great little book, that has held up for all these years.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for suggesting that bloggers be direct and concise. I wonder every day who in the world has time to read grammar-sloppy, 1000-word+ posts.

And please, please, tell people not to say "myself" when they should say "me" or "yourself" when they should say "you."

Posted by: BL Ochman at January 18, 2006 09:31 AM

I taught writing for 12 years and this book was my bible. Strunk's admonition to "omit needless words" is the single most powerful suggestion I've ever heard in the context of improved writing.

Good writing is really about editing (and of course, omitting). Do you edit your posts?

Posted by: Ken Carroll at January 19, 2006 08:53 AM

Well, that's the thing. I usually just write them, look the over for typos and odd phrasing, and then post them. So, I only do cursory editing.

Posted by: Heather Green at January 19, 2006 09:39 AM

Funny? This comment wasn't edited. Does she really "look the over for typos?" Not bashing, but I thought it interesting.

"Well, that's the thing. I usually just write them, look the over for typos and odd phrasing, and then post them. So, I only do cursory


Posted by: Geary at July 4, 2006 09:27 PM

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