Thursday, March 31, 2011

Well ... I finally finished this tiny little book.

While hard to read (because reading rules causes my brain to fall asleep), I really did enjoy this book UNTIL I reached the last section titled "An Approach to Style." If I understand correctly, this last section was written by White, while the rest was written by Strunk. This disappointed me, because this last chapter was the one I most looked forward to reading.

The majority of the book is a list of rules, boring to read but very helpful to someone wanting to improve their writing skills.

Now, I am the FIRST to admit my writing skills are not perfect. Frankly, nothing about me is perfect ... but I'm working on it!

But, the last chapter of this book was written with such snobbery, I wanted to chuck it across the room, scrunch up my face, and yell, "Are you kidding me?" So glad this chapter was last and not first.

Anyhow ... wanna know why it ticked me off?

I have a business degree. Business in my bones. Salesperson by nature. And, this last chapter suggests that people in advertising and business do not "...use the language well..." (page 82).

Here's an exerpt:
"People in business say that toner cartridges are in short supply, that they have updated the next shipment of these cartridges, and that they will finalize their recommendations at the next meeting of the board. They are speaking a language familiar and dear to them. Its portentous nouns and verbs invest ordinary events with high adventure; executives walk among toner cartridges, caparisoned like knights. We should tolerate them - every person of spirit wants to ride a white horse" (page 82).

The author then goes on to explain how "finalize" is not a standard word, calling it a "peculiarly fuzzy and silly word."

Oh. My. Gosh. Seriously?

Then this morning, I went onto a business website and placed an order for my business. I clicked on the button that said, "Finalize Order." While I hesitated before clicking, I shook my head at Strunk and White, because the meaning of "finalize" seemed perfectly clear to me, but then, I have a business degree. So, I must be pretending to be a knight on a horse as I click the finalize button.

I will continue to improve my writing skills, employing much of what I learned from this book ... but give me a break. Writing is supposed to be a pleasure for writers, not merely a diagnostic chore.


What's the best most frustrating book you've read on the craft of writing?


  1. I've never read S&W, but wow...sounds pretty snotty in that last section. I don't think I've read any craft books that have that same condescending tone. I did read a hilarious article on how anyone can write a kids' book in just 17 days ("It's easy! And fun!"). Made me shake my head and wonder how many of those 17-day books were in agents' slush piles :)

  2. How rude. I've never read a book about writing, but the snobbery featured in this makes me not want to. As far as I'm concerned, I am okay with learning from critiques alone. For now. I do have a friend who told me to read Stephen King's book on writing. I think I'll hunt that out this summer.

  3. Wow. When was the book written? I wonder if there was some sort of class thing going on there? Not an excuse, cause that did sound a bit snobby. Nothing I've ever read seemed off to me in the writing book category.

    It's funny because I think each job has these sorts of people. I worked at a Creative Agency for a while as a project manager. The creatives at the place I worked looked down on creatives who didn't work in agencies, didn't have the right degrees, etc.

  4. That's the problem. It's a great book that has been around for a long time. However, writing rules change... daily. Words like googling did not exist before. Google is a verb... and a noun...and a great search engine... and rich.
    Anyway, one of my favorite rules about writing comes from this quote:
    "There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
    ~~W. Somerset Maugham

  5. Ah, Simon Cowell made it in the writing world, did he? Take that random advice with a grain of salt since not everyone conforms to the rules. I've read the book, too--snobs on parade!

  6. Found you from the A-Z Challenge, it sounds like it’s going to be so much fun (with a bit of stress thrown in) and I can’t wait to get started!! I’m now following your blog on GFC and I hope you have a chance to check out my blog.

  7. I read a 'writing' book once which was really just an opportunity for the author to boast about how amazing his own writing is. Can't say I learnt much from it, except to avoid his books!