The elements of style provide rules for writing succinct prose, saying that rhythm is important "all things being equal". I want to write succinct, flowing prose. So, how do I achieve these two goals at the same time? Do I just focus on clarity, hoping that rhythm will result? Or do I polish for rhythm once I have made my writing succinct?

Anyway, I do not follow "The Elements of Style" because I found "Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace" a superior style guide.

What style guide do you think I should use if I want to write succinct, flowing prose? I need one that speaks not only of clarity, but of rhythm as well.

In the past, I did not follow the rules in those style guides because I thought that if I followed them, I would not be able to make my writing flow. Also, I was obsessed with emulating the prose rhythm of the King James Bible because I found its language poetic and beautiful. Since this effort did not bear the fruit of pleasing anyone, I now prefer to write in plain, succinct, and flowing prose.

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    I really don't think it matters. I know you've asked a lot of questions about prose style and rhythm, many of which have gone unanswered, and I suspect the reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, most users of this site (myself included) don't have the requisite background to discuss technical terms for the issues you ask about. Secondly, and perhaps more relevantly, I genuinely believe that writing and rewriting your own sentences, and reading and analysing other people's, will be more useful than any 'rules'. Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 20:30

2 Answers 2


To have rhythm and to be succinct together imply poetry, at least in my opinion. I recommend reading not poetry per se, but work that is “equal” in both prose and poetry, more specifically I recommend reading Shakespeare, for he fits this bill apropos his plays. I recommend reading his work often and aloud; the purpose of this is to train your ear as a musician does while also following a structure that tells a story. Again, I am advising you to read his plays more than his sonnets and narrative poems. If you read enough of his work you can see how his style goes in and out of poetry and prose almost seamlessly, and you can see his maturity with this skill in some works more than others. Bear in mind that I am not advising you to imitate, rather, I am advising you to listen and observe when these shifts occur; I am advising you to become familiar with this style.

This, in effect, is not a matter of learning through a book as I think you mean with the elements of style text, rather, it is as a student shadowing a physician: you must see how a craftsman—either in language or medicine—uses his skills not only to vitalize, but vitalize the subject to a state of equality or “good health.” In this case, what you deem “good health” is this union and homogeneity of both rhythm and prose.

I suggest Shakespeare, too, because his work was written in English and therefore not translated; if you do not know, works in their original language maintain an integrity not comparable to translations, thus, Shakespeare is invaluable in this front.

To recap: shadow Shakespeare, train your ear, and then practice. This necessitates patience, so sit down, have fun, and let your mind wander as you take your time to read his work.

I hope you fare well in this regard.


I can highly recommend "Writing Tools", by Roy Peter Clark! It took my writing to the next level, and it helped me be more concide and focused. He uses examples from both literature and journalism, which is interesting. "The first five pages" by Noah Lukeman is also very good, but it is not as specific/practical as "Writing Tools".

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    Welcome to Writing.SE! Does this book offer any advice on flowing prose, or only on being succinct?
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 13:59
  • Hello! Thanks for checking. It does; it even shows how being succinct makes the prose more flowing. I should have clarified that in my answer :)
    – Charlotte
    Commented Feb 16, 2021 at 16:23

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