I have to confess that I find Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" to be a very tedious read.

Can anyone recommend an alternative title that covers similar ground?

  • I'm a visual learner. Any video recommendations?
    – BSalita
    Dec 30, 2016 at 10:41
  • 1
    Are you looking for a style guide? Or something else?
    – TriskalJM
    Dec 30, 2016 at 14:56
  • Not exactly a style guide, but often a main source of them, is Fowler's modern English usage
    – MaQleod
    Dec 31, 2016 at 0:31
  • [TL,DR] :) Yep, here is the one-liner S&W: " Optimize your words' use." Jan 16, 2017 at 16:32

3 Answers 3


I would not have thought S&W was long enough to be tedious, but it is certainly dry. A considerably more lively, and longer, and, I think, better book is Sir Ernest Gowers The Complete Plain Words. Livelier still, and much much shorter, is George Orwell's Politics and the English Language.

  • Politics and the English Language is somewhat similar in its general viewpoint, but it's an essay, not a style guide. I guess it seems a bit unclear from the question whether this would work as a good substitute.
    – aer
    Dec 30, 2016 at 18:40
  • I contains a style guide. It is seven bullet points, which is about as much of a style guide as you can hold in your head.
    – user16226
    Jan 10, 2017 at 13:26

It depends what you're looking for.

Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century appreciates the strengths and weaknesses of Strunk and White, explains its history and tries to provide a more diverse kind of help for writers. Its longest chapter, which is over 100 pages, discusses the "rules" of word choices, but the rest of the book talks about other important aspects of writing (especially when the reader needs to learn, e.g. in non-fiction or stories with heavy worldbuilding).

Mark Forsyth's The Elements of Eloquence: How To Turn the Perfect English Phrase discusses dozens of writing techniques that have been useful for centuries. Occasionally, it argues some "ungrammatical" constructions are worth it.

  • At the base there are "formating" guides, the driest of them all, like the Associated Press Style, Chicago Manual of Style, MLA handbook....

  • S&W is sometimes listed under the former category, but it is more a writing philosophy, a stylistic statement. Yes, it can be tedious in parts, but it is well worth it. The gist of it is to be effective with your writing. For more visual learners there is "The Elements of Style - Illustrated"

  • Then there are writing guides like: "On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser". Here is a link to some of the best books on writing


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