Ars Legendi: Omit needless books

Alan Duff

In this new weekly column, I will attempt to discuss any reading-related topics as they come across my mind or the news or appear relevant to Lawrence.

Two weeks into the term I can still feel the inflamed optimism of students ready to tackle school with eagerness. While everyone is still full of energy, I would like to recommend a book to read, something I would never attempt at a different point in the year.

This isn’t meant to be a weekly book review or a column for the advocacy that everyone should read more books — though I certainly offer no objection to that — rather I intend to create a celebration of certain themes and elements of reading, whether that reading be on the internet, a book for pleasure, over twitter, in a newspaper or for a class.

For the purpose of helping anyone entering Freshman Studies, or any class where they spend a good portion of time writing, and because I absolutely love the book, I’m recommending that everyone read The Elements of Style, a short, economically written book by Strunk and White.

I consider the book a “must have”for anyone who writes for the same reason that I would recommend having butter with bread to anyone who eats.

Originally published in 1918, the book contains a number of stylistic tips, composition rules and a list of words that one should avoid mixing upwhile writing. The book,created by a master of brevity, was issued to students in writing classes with this simple list of rules that if followed, would help a student with their writing beyond what any thick ruler could hope to.

I am personally of the opinion that Lawrence students would benefit from The Elements of Style in more ways than from A Pocket Style Manual,which is currently a required textbook for Freshman Studies.

I have nothing negative to say about the manual. However, with so many citation resources currently available online, maybe it’s time to require a different sort of general writingguidebook for Freshman Studies that isn’t so conveniently replaced by a few clicks on a web browser.

The Elements of Style would fit in perfectly because itcontains the three things that any college student wants in a book they are required to read: It is less than a hundred pages, it uses brevity and it states that every single one of its rules can be disregarded at the reader’s discretion if they properly understand when they can break them.

Who doesn’t like to be told they can break some rules? Simply put, it would be a wonderful addition to the Freshman Studies curriculum.

While The Elements of Style is not in this year’s curriculum, that doesn’t mean anyone need be denied its writing wisdom.

The library has a copy available on its shelves for any student’s reading pleasure, or if one is so inclined you can go the traditional route and buy the book from Barnes & Noble, Amazon or a local bookstore using your own funds–or with adequate begging skills, your parents’.