Strunk, White, & ?


Click the book cover to go to the Powell’s website for a description of the book we formerly only knew as being authored by, and generally referred to simply as, Strunk and White. We love Maira Kalman and never knew she had illustrated this classic. That is interesting enough, but if you are ever accused of being a member of the “grammar police” as some of us are, or are a fan of Steven Pinker, or both, check this out (thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education):

The voice on BBC radio was that of Professor Steven Pinker, fluent and engaging as ever. But my blood froze as I listened to what he said.

On the panel show A Good Read (Radio 4, October 17, 2014), each guest recommends a book, which the other guests also read and discuss. And Pinker’s recommendation for a good read was … The Elements of Style !

It was like hearing Warren Buffett endorsing junk bonds. It was like learning that Stanley Kubrick called Plan 9 From Outer Space high-quality cinematography. It was like seeing Chet Atkins  (Never mind. I am too dispirited to go on with this potentially entertaining game of analogy-making.)

You see, Pinker’s own new book, The Sense of Style (Viking, 2014), which of course the ethos of the radio program would not permit him to pick, has solved a problem I’ve had for years. People keep asking me what, given my low opinion of The Elements of Style, I would recommend instead; and I have had little to say except that I wished there were an answer. Today there is an answer: For a sensible guide to what makes good writing good, buy Pinker’s book.

Pinker has just two things in common with the original author of The Elements of Style, William Strunk. First, an Ivy League professorship (Pinker is on the Harvard psychology faculty today, and Strunk taught English at Cornell a hundred years ago). Second, a surname with -nk  in it. The rest is all contrasts:

  • Pinker is an academic superstar known for important research in psychology, psycholinguistics, and cognitive science; Strunk was a scholarly mediocrity who published nothing noteworthy…

Not what we were expecting. But interesting. Read the whole post here.

One thought on “Strunk, White, & ?

  1. Pingback: Good Writing, According To Steven Pinker | Raxa Collective

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