At the July 11 Sarasota Fiction Writers meeting, five of our members presented some of the highlights of Strunk & White’s famous guidebook The Elements of Style.
The meeting kicked off with a round table discussion of “hopefully” and its common, inappropriate usage in today’s vernacular.
Bill Carrigan then reviewed Strunk & White’s guidelines on punctuation and other grammar, including the proper application of hyphens, dashes, and comma placement.
Bill was followed by Bob Spitzer, who discussed technical style. He explained how Strunk & White emphasize the need to use active voice, say “what is” instead of “what isn’t,” omit needless words (i.e. “the fact that,” “due to,” “the reason why”), and place emphatic words at the end of a sentence for improved punch.
Jerry Keane and Grier Ferguson then tag teamed a discussion of hyphenation, exclamation, margins, numerals, titles, quotations, poems, and an assortment of commonly misused words. These included affect/effect, “compared to” versus “compared with,” farther/further, and imply/infer. They also discussed eliminating ineffective words and phrases such as “factor,” “contact,” “importantly,” “got” (“I have got…”), and “insightful” in favor of more perceptive and specific terms.
The meeting concluded with Patrick Gray’s presentation of style and technique. He passed out a handout that demonstrated the usage of different literary devices, including language musicality, hyperbaton, chiasmus, and antimetabole (try saying that five times fast!). As a group, we also discussed the effectiveness of relying on Germanic-based English words instead of Latinate adoptees.
The night was filled with lively conversation and astute questions. If you don’t have a copy of Strunk & White, be sure to pick one up and study the wisdom contained between its covers.