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I'm interesting in picking up a copy of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style. Unfortunately I'm a little overwhelmed by the minor variations. Amazon lists 12 different paperback formats, plus a half dozen or more other editions.

I'm interested in a recent, basic copy. I don't need anything fancy. I just want to make sure I'm getting the actual Strunk & White, and not some stupid commentary or deluxe version they're just using to milk students.

Specific publications/editions please.

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The 1999 4th edition is probably your best bet, and has the benefit of being small.

The newer 50th anniversary edition contains the same text as the 4th edition and costs more - its only selling point appears to be the black cover.

  • I agree. However, browse through one of the online versions before buying. I have a copy on my desk, but I also frequently use the online version at Bartleby.com. It's from 1918 and is now in the public domain. – D-Day Feb 21 '11 at 2:14
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Mine is a 3rd Edition (1979). I've never replaced it because it acquired magical powers when I was in college! I carried it in the back pocket of my jeans for a couple of semesters and it got heavily creased and worn. More than once, a prof commented that although he/she might disagree with me, I must be right since I always had S&W with me.

I've looked at the newer editions, but I never saw anything that made me feel like I was missing out by not having them. So my personal advice is to pick up an older used copy (Amazon, eBay, etc.) for a dollar or so, and use the money you could have spent on a newer edition for something that might help you more.

My copy of S&W

  • Yes. 3rd Edition. All the others are part of a communist plot to overthrow America. ;-) (I winked, but it's true.) – dmm Apr 10 '14 at 20:10
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Instead of White's book, you might want to check out Joseph Williams' Style: Towards Clarity and Grace. It's much better. There are several widely differing editions. Use the original Chicago Press, 1990 edition or the Harper Collins, 4th edition 1993. All the other editions have been mangled in various ways.

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