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The Abridged Elements of Style. Gerald B. Moulds (Taken from The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White). Part I : The Principles of Composition. The Paragraph. Make the paragraph the unit of composition. Each paragraph should address a single topic. Use the active voice.

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the abridged elements of style

The Abridged Elements of Style

Gerald B. Moulds

(Taken from The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White)

the paragraph
The Paragraph
  • Make the paragraph the unit of composition.
  • Each paragraph should address a single topic.
use the active voice
Use the active voice
  • More direct
  • More precise
“I threw the ball.”
  • “The ball was thrown by me.”
  • “The ball was thrown.”
put statements in positive form
Put statements in positive form
  • Negative form: “The author’s evidence is not strong.”
  • Positive form: “The author’s evidence is weak.”
use definite specific concrete language
Use definite, specific, concrete language.
  • Provide details: information, flavor, imagery.
  • Writing is about conveying specific information.
ecclesiastics quote 1 george orwell
Ecclesiastics - Quote #1: (George Orwell)
  • "Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must inevitably be taken into account.”
ecclesiastics quote 2 king james version
Ecclesiastics - Quote #2: (King James Version)
  • "I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all."
omit needless words
Omit needless words
  • Rid your writing of clutter:
  • “The fact that…”
  • “Who is…”
  • “Which was…”
express coordinate ideas in similar form
Express coordinate ideas in similar form.
  • When relating two or more ideas, keep your form consistent.
  • Incorrect: “The French, the Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.”
  • Correct: “The French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.”
Incorrect: “It was both a long lecture and very tedious.”
  • Correct: “It was a long, tedious lecture.”
  • Correct: “The lecture was both long and tedious.”
keep related words together
Keep related words together.
  • Poor word placement can result in ambiguity.
“A widely criticized proposal to amend the ballot proposition…”
  • OR
  • “A proposal to amend the widely criticized ballot proposition…”
  • (Depending on your meaning.)
put yourself in the background
Put yourself in the background
  • This is seldom an issue in technical writing, because of the explicit focus on a specific subject.
write in a way that comes naturally
Write in a way that comes naturally.
  • Use words that come to you readily.
  • Write using language obvious to you and your audience.
  • Write first, then edit for clarity.
write with nouns and verbs
Write with nouns and verbs.
  • Construct your sentences with nouns and verbs.
  • Next, add those adjectives and adverbs that add content and flavor.
do not overwrite
Do not overwrite
  • Stay on target! Don’t let your subject get away from you.
  • Illustrating your ideas with examples and metaphors can be helpful, but use moderation.
  • Again, rewriting is key. Get ideas on paper, then edit.
avoid the use of qualifiers
Avoid the use of qualifiers
  • "Rather, very, little pretty -- these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words. The constant use of the adjective little (except to indicate size) is particularly debilitating; we should all try to do a little better; we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is a rather important one, and we are pretty sure to violate it now and then."
don t construct awkward adverbs
Don’t construct awkward adverbs.
  • Any adjective or participle, with an “-ly” added, can become an adverb.
  • Examples: tangledly, tiredly.
  • You should almost never do this!
finally be clear
Finally: Be clear
  • Writing is communication.
  • If you must be obscure, be obscure clearly.