Omit Needless Words – The Elements of Style

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all sentences short, or avoid all detail and treat subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.

– William Strunk Jr. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition, p. 23.


A great quote from a book that should be studied by every English reader.

The original 1918 edition is online for free.   

This entry was posted in books, edit, editing, english, grammar, learning, read, Teaching, Training, words, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Omit Needless Words – The Elements of Style

  1. There’s a great quote by the author Elmore Leonard. He wrote Get Shorty and about 50 other novels.

    He said that the secret to writing a great novel, “I leave out the parts people skip.”

    He also said that if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

    I see lots of blog posts that are one long continuous paragraph. Sometimes even one long sentence. Writing to be read is a lot different than academic mumbo, jumbo.

  2. Mark Twain said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”

    Dr. B

  3. True, Dr. Tom. Concise writing often takes more time.

  4. Dakwegmo- Thanks for the link to your on post Pleonasm.
    It reminds me of a wonderful line from the book “Why Business people speak like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide.”

    “This is just the kind of synergistic, customer-centric, upsell-driven, churn-reducing, outside-the box, customizable, strategically tactical, best-of-breed, seamlessly integrated, multichannel thought-leadership that will help our clients track to true north. Let’s fly this up the flagpole and see where the push-back is.”

    – Why Business people speak like Idiots: A Bullfighter’s Guide, by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky. (Free Press, Div. Simon & Schuster, 2005)

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