Let every word tell.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

I would have thought this was the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary edition—this timeless, tidy collection of rules of the writing road seem to have lived among us since the dawn of time.

But, no, it’s just about the same age as my brother (me, I’m the same age as Helvetica.) Yes, the seminal work by William Strunk came out in 1918 (a shade younger than my father-in-law) but the “and White” part of it, the contribution, revision, and expansion by long-time New Yorker contributor and “Charlotte’s Web” author E.B.White made the oh-so-concise rules of his old Cornell professor live again for several generations of succeeding writers.

Some of White’s (and Strunk’s) advice can be ingested and then gently set aside in our new world of marvels like the quickly-burped-out weblog and the vast twitterscape: “Prefer the standard to the offbeat.” “Do not affect a breezy manner.” Heck, what fun is that?

But we can all continue our searches for “one moment of felicity” (S&W quoting Robert Louis Stevenson there.) We can all “omit needless words.” We can all slam the keys with vigor and then hone the result until a bright sheen casts out from our 24″ LCD displays.