Fifty is nifty. After Steve Inskeep’s godawful Michael Jackson impersonation this morning, NPR had this report.
The Elements of Style, the definitive writing guide by E.B. White and William Strunk Jr., turns 50 on Thursday. To mark the anniversary, its publisher has released an elegantly bound, gold-embossed hardcover edition containing notes about the book’s history.
In 1957, White, who wrote the children’s classics Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, rediscovered a brief guide to style by Strunk, his professor at Cornell University. White wrote an essay about it in the July 1957 issue of The New Yorker, introducing what would eventually become a bible for countless writers:
“The Elements of Style” was Will Strunk’s parvum opus, his attempt to cut the vast tangle of English rhetoric down to size and write its rules and principles on the head of a pin. Will himself hung the title “little” on the book: he referred to it sardonically and with secret pride as “the little book,” always giving the word “little” a special twist, as though he were putting a spin on a ball.
At the behest of an editor at the publisher Macmillan, White revised and expanded Strunk’s “little book,” which would go on to sell more than 10 million copies after its publication as The Elements of Style in 1959.