I stumbled upon this video pretty early this morning, and could not stop laughing. I thought I was going to wake up the neighborhood. Drinking 40s and rapping about the Elements of Style? Who does that? Well, I did. All through my first couple years of college. Maybe not the rapping part – that came much later – but definitely the drinking, and the memorization of Strunk and White’s classic grammar guide.
I have never denied the fact that I’m a sucker for a well-written sentence, or that I am head over heels for perfect punctuation. Virginia Wolfe taught me all about the dash – which I love, since it allows me to insert commentary into an editorial piece, which is by nature, commentary on its own. Most importantly, however, Strunk and White – along with Professor Doyle Wesley Walls (see, there I go again with the dashes) – taught me one of life’s most important rules: Rule #13 – Omit Needless Words.
It took me a very long time to truly understand the levity of those three little words. I’m fairly long-winded at times – as you’ve probably seen on a few of these postings – and it’s hard for me to simply know when to stop. For example, I could have left that last sentence with just the initial main clause, but I didn’t, because I like to hammer things home. My fiance tells me that I repeat myself on a regular basis; you know, say things over and over and over again until it’s so beyond frustrating that it will lead to a frying pan across the jaw if I don’t stop (not that she’s a violent person by any means, but I’m simply that annoying at times). When I finally understood that by omitting needless words, in both writing, and life, I realized that it was a phrase through which to live. To break it down to its most basic meaning: one must remove the words which do not need to be.
This phrase became so important to me, that I had it permanently etched into my skin – a not-so-subtle reminder, to shut up once in a while.
If you’ve gone to college, and taken any writing courses, or a basic English 101, you’ve probably grabbed Strunk and White’s little grey book. If you haven’t, it’s definitely one to have on your shelf. You don’t need to be a grammar nerd like myself in order to enjoy a few new ways to work with language. After all, even if you hate writing – though, you probably wouldn’t be reading a website on the use of language – you still use language everyday. Wouldn’t you like to be better at it?