September 11, 2012
Strunk & White's 50th Anniversary Edition: It's the real thing...
I received The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition from
a very close friend a few years back, and she was someone who
understood my love for this book that goes back to my college days in
the 1970s. Someone once asked me how I was able to hold a 3.9 average in
college back in the post-Vietnam era when as a veteran I was in school
and working full time. My answer then is as it is now: "Strunk and
But if my friend reads this, I hope that she will accept
my apology that I rarely open the cover of this book, yet it's one of my
most treasured. It's the accepted 4th edition, and now a collectable in
this hardbound version. These days I use a well worn paperback
edition, The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition,
which is still accessed at least a few times a week. I just heep this
one on a special bookshelf with my most treasured books, and still
glance at it when using the paperback.
There are plenty of
reviews, both pro and con, posted here on both of the above editions,
and I am not as erudite as some of the other reviewers, nor am I an
authority. As far as these editions go, Time Magazine listed Strunk
& White's 'The Elements of Style' as "one of the 100 best and most
influential books written in English since 1923" in their August 30,
2011 issue. But my concern is that there are many editions of "The
Elements of Style" listed here on Amazon, both in paper and Kindle
editions, yet few of them are what the reader may assume are the real
For example, this THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE - The Original Edition (Annotated) may
not be the edition that you're looking for. It's one of a number of
versions of the original title "The Elements of Style" written by
Cornell University English professor William Strunk, Jr., who wrote it
1918. But this is not the version that is also known as "Strunk &
White." The product description is incorrect.
There are other Kindle reissues of the 1918 edition, most notably THE
ELEMENTS OF STYLE (UPDATED 2011 EDITION) The All-Time Bestselling Book
on Writing English Newly Edited (Special 2011 Edition) The Elements of
Style OVER 10 MILLION COPIES SOLD! [Revised], which notes that it is
newly revised and edited by Chris Hong, who is listed in the electronic
flyleaf as a former editor at Harvard University, and bears a © 2011
The Elements of Style Press notation. This particular edition does have a
slightly better layout on the Kindle, and the table of contents is well
hyperlinked, but no mention is made of original author William Strunk,
Jr., except for his name on the flyleaf.
Among the other Kindle editions are The Elements of Style (Original Edition), with the quill on it's cover is basic, and it costs under a dollar. But if you're going for basic, the The Elements of Style edition with its generic cover is a no-cost freebie. And there are other Kindle editions if you search.
problem with these 1918 editions is that the writing style is dated.
Original author Strunk had died in 1946, and in 1959, the publishers
commissioned writer and author E. B. White, well known for his Charlotte's Web,
that classic for children, to revise the 41-year-old text. This was was
fitting as Strunk had been one of White's professors at Cornell.
White's rework of the book was extremely well received, and further
editions of the work followed in 1972, 1979, and 1999. White's expansion
and modernization of Strunk's original became informally known as
Strunk & White. As to whether it's considered a valid part of a
writer's bookshelf, more than ten million copies of the three editions
of Strunk & White have been sold.
The history of this writing manual can be found in Mark Garvey's Stylized: A Slightly Obsessive History of Strunk & White's The Elements of Style, which was published in 2009, an excellent book in its own right.
So if you're looking for the real Strunk & White, The Elements of Style (4th Edition), by William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, is one you want, and it's only available in paper editions, except for the rare The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition,
which is now a collectable. Otherwise, you may enjoy one of the Kindle
editions listed here, but think of them more as an interesting
background than as contemporary writing style references.