Mastering the elements of style …

“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” ― Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker

Gotta love Dorothy Parker!

She may have been on to something in the second part of her quote as we know a writer’s life is tough! However, as a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table and a Hollywood screenwriter, Parker was definitely on point with her initial suggestion.

One of the best investments I‘ve made in my journey to become a romance author was to purchase Elements of Style by Strunk and White. This book is a must have for any serious writer.

It’s a given that when you write fiction you take certain liberties in the name of prose and storytelling. And more than likely, you will write in a way that would probably give your high school English teacher indigestion—like start a sentence with “and” or “but.” (It took a LONG time before I dared to start my sentences with either word. I am such a stickler and I loved my English teacher!)

However, if you’re going to break the rules, it’s good to have a solid knowledge of the foundation.

Elements of Style, breaks down and explains grammatical rules such as dangling modifiers and independent clauses. It also offers guidance on when you should place a comma before “and “and “but” (which most people forget), and once and for all, gives clarity on the use of your vs. you’re, their vs. there, that vs who and its vs it’s. Did I mention I’m a stickler? It drives me berserk when these words are misused.

Be mindful, that in addition to enjoying your work, grammatically savvy readers, are “red-lining” it as well, and they will let you know in a review when you don’t hit the mark. So be on your best game. Know your stuff, and then make it your own.

Although the Elements of Style is a must have for writers, I’d recommend it to everyone. Writing well in any profession is a plus. I carry it everywhere!

Since I started out with a quote from Dorothy Parker, I wanted to finish this blog with one of her poems. I really enjoyed her work and always saw a tiny bit of myself in her. She was edgy, sarcastic and brilliant. (Okay, the brilliant part doesn’t apply to me—just the snarky.)

Here’s one of my favorite Dorothy Parker poems. It’s quick and to the point!

    Unfortunate Coincidence

    By the time you swear you’re his,
    Shivering and sighing,
    And he vows his passion is
    Infinite, undying –
    Lady, make a note of this:
    One of you is lying.


6 thoughts on “Mastering the elements of style …

  1. I love your writing and you give good tips too 😉

    • nettrobbens says:

      Thanks so much, I’m honored that you like my writing. Over the years, I’ve been given good advice and I’ve learned a great deal. I just want to pass it on!

  2. MishaBurnett says:

    Actually the best book I have ever read on the mechanics of sentence structure is “The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook Of Grammar For The Innocent, The Eager, and The Doomed” by Karen Elizabeth Gordon.

    It lays out the basics in a very clear way, with examples that are fun to read.

  3. Discovered your blog name via sethsnaps and just clicked on your name. I like that little poem above. Excellent. I write a very simple blog- I do not attempt to call myself a writer and do not pretend to be one. However, I enjoy other writers and will be back to read more. I must see about getting the book/s mentioned above. I prefer to write in a correct manner if I can manage somehow.


    • nettrobbens says:

      Hi Yvonne,

      I’m glad you found my blog. I hope whatever is written will help you with your writing, or just entertain you some days! I love your blog already. The title alone hooked me. Thanks for stopping by!

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