if william strunk was a typographer, would he omit needless spaces

WHILE “THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE” has been around for almost one-hundred years, it didn’t start its march to universal acclaim until 1959. That year saw the first edition of William Strunk’s little book expanded from 43 pages to 78 pages by “co-author” E.B. White. Forty years earlier, Professor Strunk had published the book as a guide for his students at Cornell University. It called

my forte is not my fortay, it’s just my fort

WE HEAR IT AND WE SAY IT . . . INCORRECTLY! We usually hear “fortay” when people say “forte,” an almost universally mispronounced word! I can’t say it’s a part of everyone’s daily vocabulary, but if you read enough you’ll come across it regularly. I’m writing this because it was used in a couple of movies that we watched recently. Unfortunately, while the word and CONTINUE READING

posting online ain’t the same as being in print

REGARDING POSTING ONLINE, in response to having the official Elvis Presley website at Graceland picking up one of my articles—which I trumpeted loudly to family and friends via Facebook and email—my friend Stephanie Locke posted a nice comment on my
A Touch Of Gold site: “Good to see Umphred back in print.”

Instead of simply accepting the comment, I responded with, “Call me old-fashioned, but CONTINUE READING

on william strunk and vigorously concise writing

WILLIAM STRUNK JR was Professor of English at Cornell University. In 1918, he self-published a guide for his students on English usage and writing called The Elements Of Style. The slim book consisted primarily of eight “elementary rules of usage” and ten “elementary principles of composition” accompanied by a “few matters of form.’ It urged vigorous and concise writing.

“Vigorously Concise Writing”


about editing and those confusing proofreader’s marks

ASIDE FROM MY OWN WORK, I have edited several books and many articles for others. I have no formal training in, merely study about editing. I never used the field’s accepted nomenclature or proof-reading symbols. I just used my Strunk & White and everything worked out hunky-dory for those writers!

If you’re blogger who doesn’t proofread his own work, believe me when I tell you CONTINUE READING

at least hillary knows the difference between alternative and alternate

LAST NIGHT’S SLUGFEST consisted of ninety minutes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton calling each other names (“liar” popped up more than once) and declaring each other untrustworthy and unfit for office. Policy differences and other matters that should concern these two candidates were set aside so that each could impugn the basic character of the other! As Politico remarked, “It was the ugliest debate CONTINUE READING

some (piss) poor writing about hillary’s “role” in the attack on benghazi

THE LAST WORD ANYONE would use to describe me is “conservative”—at least not regarding most issues related to politics. But there’s more to life than politics: I remain old-fashioned on the issue of prescriptive versus descriptive dictionaries (strongly believing in the former) and the misuse of the designated hitter in major league baseball (not at all what you think). And I am adamantly conservative about CONTINUE READING

are there supposed to be spaces between the dots in an ellipsis?

EVERY READER OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE has seen those three dots in the midst of an otherwise normal sentence that tells them something special is happening. These dots are called an ‘ellipsis’ and are usually associated with text quoted from another source. Most readers know that these dots indicate that words in the original text have been deemed unnecessary and omitted from the quote. 1CONTINUE READING

why I capitalize every word in every title

I CAPITALIZE EVERY WORD in every title that I write in the text sections of my books and essays. That includes capitalizing the definite and indefinite articles and those perky prepositions! I always have and no doubt I always will. I do this for several reasons, which I share here in a gesture of bonhomie. But beware: this approach is at odds with most style guides.CONTINUE READING