Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Declare Your Indpendence from 'Elements of Style'

From LL:

According to the principles enunciated by Strunk and White [in Elements of Style], the Declaration of Independence is an awful piece of writing. It is riddled with adjectives and adverbs, according to Strunk and White, and other purveyors of stupid advice, the nemesis of good writing. Here is the first paragraph with the adjectives and adverbs marked. Is it better without them?

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

It frequently uses the passive voice: "all men are created equal...", "they are endowed by their Creator...", "Governments are instituted among Men...".

Many sentences are very long: the first main sentence, the one beginning "When in the course of human events...", contains 71 words. Some sentences begin with conjunctions ("Nor have we been...", "But when a long train..."). There are redundancies ("We mutually pledge to each other..."). All in all, according to Strunk and White, a shoddy piece of work. Curious that they never commented on it.

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