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How to Write Badly

As I write this, I cautiously check each phrase to ensure that it cannot be shortened.  I double-check my P’s (periods) and Q’s (question marks) to be sure they are properly placed.  I look over my shoulder to see if the ghosts of William Strunk and E.B. White are watching as I type, eager to interrupt and correct my grammar.  I think back to my college years when their “Elements of Style” was required reading in my beginning journalism class.

Today, those of us who blog, Twitter, and text message can learn from their admonitions:  use the active voice; omit needless words; put statements in positive form; use definite, specific, concrete language, and so forth.  Ah, if only.

The wild wild web has encouraged us to write badly.  I believe Messrs. Strunk and White would be horrified at the decimation of language.  What would they think of these Tweets that streamed by me just today: Me as a kid Meme (pic), This is Fiesta Day 1 for us and we are toast!, Have you submitted your tweets to Twitter wit yet?

For a half-century, this powerful little book has been guiding writers (bad, passive phrase).  The New York Times reported last week that Pierson/Longman has just published a 50th anniversary edition of the book.  I urge everyone who values simple writing to read it.  The authors were very prescient.

Go to to buy the book (used).  It may be the best $2.99 you ever spent.