Social criticism begins with grammar and the re-establishing of meanings… Octavio Paz

And to carry Paz’s thought forward, by going backward, we look to  Richard Chenevix Trench when he said, Grammar is the logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason.  If you have ever wondered at the inadequacy of policy in an age of bad writing you have only to look at the failure to teach rhetoric – which included the rules of spelling, punctuation and grammar – to understand why sloppy writing leads to sloppy though [and vice versa] all of which leads to intellectual sloth and system failure for the society.

It is a long way between distilling Holy Writ to our obligation to know, love and serve God and just shucking and jiving in a multicolored robe in a multicultural service shouting kum ba yah in no particular key. When we have such leading lights as David Sedaris tell us, Sometimes with ‘The New Yorker,’ they have grammar rules that just don’t feel right in my mouth, we have a problem. Thankfully, do to the size of his audience, it is a small one.

When we have the producer of untold volumes of commercial advertising, David Ogilvy, justify his crimes against language by telling us, I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular, it is time to – to descend in to the vernacular – call of the dogs, put out the fires and go home.

Joseph Mallord William Turner was one of the greatest marine artists of all time. Many of his paintings of ships have them enveloped in fog, being tossed about in tempests or obscured in the chaos of battle. Yet every one of his ships is instantly recognizable as a ship and shows the viewer the same clarity of detail that a general arrangement would show a naval architect. How is this accomplished? He obviously learned how to draw before he learned how to paint and by way of analogy, in his most famous painting, the tug may be thought of as grammar leading the ship out of the fog. As Wittgenstein told us, Like everything metaphysical the harmony between thought and reality is to be found in the grammar of the language.

Stylized : a slightly obsessive history of Strunk & White’s The elements of style New York : Simon & Schuster, 2009 Mark Garvey Strunk, William, 1869-1946. Elements of style Hardcover. 1st Touchstone hardcover ed. and printing. xxv, 208 p.: ill.; 21 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [207]-208). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Since 1959, The Elements of Style has been required reading for aspiring writers, English majors, and anyone with a love of language. Strunk and White’s guidelines for good grammar and style have been discussed, debated, and occasionally even debunked…but they cannot be dismissed.

A Strunk and White devotee since high school, writer and editor Mark Garvey has long appreciated Elements for its character, its attitude, and its bracing good sense. The book is not only a helpful guide to creating better prose, it is also a compelling reminder of the virtues of clarity, simplicity, and truth in writing – and an inspiring celebration of the individual voice. To tell the story of this timeless, beloved, sometimes controversial book, and the men behind it, Garvey digs deep into the Cornell University archives and the personal letters of E. B. White and his professor William Strunk Jr.

Stylized is a lovingly crafted history that explores Elements’ staying power and takes us from the hallowed halls of academia to the bustling offices of The New Yorker magazine to the dazzling days of old Hollywood – and into the hearts and minds of some of the most respected writers working today.


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