The Poetry Question

Discovering the Relevance of Words

Where Rap Meets the Elements of Style

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.

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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?

About Christopher Margolin

Chris Margolin spent more than a decade in Education as a high school English teacher, and is now an Instructional Coach for the Longview School District. He is also the founder of The Poetry Question, an online journal which focuses on reviews of small press poetry publications, and runs a regular series called "The Power of Poetry," where notable poets share their personal stories of how poetry has affected their lives. Margolin resides in Vancouver, Washington with his wife, and daughter.

5 comments on “Where Rap Meets the Elements of Style

  1. J. Gabriel Allan
    May 9, 2013

    My copy is green.

    • Christopher Margolin
      May 9, 2013

      There were green copies? Man, not even my 1st edition was green. I’ll have to find that one. Is it sad that I have a signed 1st edition?

  2. Pingback: Design Elements: A Graphic Style Manual

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