The Elements of Style, William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
Paperback – 105 pages; 4th edition, Allyn & Bacon;
If you haven’t encountered this timeless classic in high school, you’ll be seeing it in freshman English at college. The wisdom in this little volume is the shortest route between your current writing skill level and one that shines. Everyone stands to learn from the lessons contained here, even professional writers – certainly students sitting down to write a college application essay!
One of the most practical sections of Elements is its review of the rules of usage. There are simple things such as the proper use of possessives, the serial comma (one of my pet peeves), colons, dashes, and pronouns. It’s all spelled out simply and quickly with clear examples. You’ll find principles of composition too, which are especially helpful for your essay efforts. There are some matters of form, commonly misused words and expressions (can you infer my implication here?), and an approach to style. Most of us may not know how to define style but we know it when we see it.
From where I sit, I see Bauld’s On Writing the College Application Essay and Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style as the dynamic duo of effective essayists. You’ll not likely spend more profitable time than you will with these two gems. The bonus effect comes after you’ve written your essays. That’s when the lessons learned here kick in during other writing assignments. Oh yes, don’t look now, but you’ll be doing a lot of writing in college. Get ready now.