The Elements of Style: Still Relevant?

The Elements of Style: Still Relevant?
Writers unsure of their grammar often ask me to recommend a reference. After all these years, I still mention The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. Yes, that’s the same E.B. White who authored the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. If you ever took English 101 in college, you may have The Elements of Style sitting on a bookcase somewhere. First published in 1959, it was at one time a standard required text and, while some points are dated, I find that it has mostly stood the test of time.
When you think of a grammar or style book, you probably envision a huge, hardback, doorstop-worthy tome, but Struck and White’s soft-cover, 71-page booklet can fit into a coat pocket. Yet it covers everything from fine points of grammar to broad suggestions on style. Here’s one example of the more general advice, found under the topic, “Avoid fancy words”:
“Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able….If you admire fancy words, if every sky is beauteous, every blonde curvaceous, if you are tickled by discombobulate, you will have a bad time with [this reminder]….There is nothing wrong, really, with any word—all are good, but some are better than others….The line between the fancy and the plain, between the atrocious and the felicitous, is sometimes alarmingly fine.”

Memoir writers unsure of their grammar often ask me to recommend a reference. After all these years, I still mention The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White. Yes, that’s the same E.B. White who authored the children’s classic, Charlotte’s Web. If you ever took English 101 in college, you may have The Elements of Style sitting on a bookcase somewhere. First published in 1959, it was at one time a standard required text and, while some points are dated, I find that it has mostly stood the test of time.

When you think of a grammar or style book, you probably envision a huge, hardback, doorstop-worthy tome, but Strunk and White’s soft-cover, 71-page booklet can fit into a coat pocket. Yet it covers everything from fine points of grammar to broad suggestions on style. Here’s one example of the more general advice, found under the topic, “Avoid fancy words”:

“Avoid the elaborate, the pretentious, the coy, and the cute. Do not be tempted by a twenty-dollar word when there is a ten-center handy, ready and able….If you admire fancy words, if every sky is beauteous, every blonde curvaceous, if you are tickled by discombobulate, you will have a bad time with [this reminder]….There is nothing wrong, really, with any word—all are good, but some are better than others….The line between the fancy and the plain, between the atrocious and the felicitous, is sometimes alarmingly fine.”

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for that extra commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. SCHEDULE A CALL TODAY if you’d like to talk about what’s right for you. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!