by iampunha | 7/11/2008 08:00:00 AM
Dr. Parks Lanier guided and informed my entry on Ann Radcliffe.

Dr. Rosemary Guruswamy taught me much of what I knew for my Anne Hutchinson diary.

I accidentally discovered the story of Mikhail Sholokhov while researching a largely separate topic for Dr. Kim Gainer's Medieval English Literature class.

Other people have engendered one or more of my entries.

Today's honoree has guided not only every entry I have written here but everything else I have written in the last five years, easy.

I am one of millions he has informed. And mere millions is a massive understatement.

Elwyn Brooks White, or E.B. White, was born on July 11, 1899. Today we celebrate his birthday and legacy.



A conversation a few minutes ago with a co-worker affirmed my experience that most people know E.B. White as an author of incredibly popular children's books.

He was.

He was more, too.

E.B. White was a student of William J. Strunk Jr. Strunk's 1919 tome, The Elements of Style, which has been guiding style for nearly 90 years, has been revised a half-dozen times since its debut, and it is at least as helpful today as it was back in the day.

I will always advocate for linguistic cleanliness (in whatever dialect one cares to write in), and I will often advocate for accuracy (though telling the whole story is often impossible).

But I will not always advocate for brevity. Brevity may well be the soul of wit, but it is not the soul of warmth. The rule of threes does not lend itself to brevity. (For a decent example of the application of this rule, read this.)

But merely being succinct does not encapsulate brevity. Brevity, among other things, consists of not using nominalization nominalizing, or turning verbs into nouns.

Consider:

He made the assist on the put-out.
He assisted on the put-out.

That's a redundancy.
That's redundant.

Writing that uses strong verbs becomes strong. Consider the comparatively passive "make a donation to the campaign" versus "donate to the campaign." Read this.

And read this for a tribute to E.B. White that does its best to use his (and Strunk's) elements of style.

May E.B. White's elements of style comfort you as Charlotte's web, the swan's trumpet and little Stuart have comforted generations of children and their parents.

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