Book Review – The Elements of Style

Author: William Strunk
Print | Kindle Edition
When I picked up this book, I was looking for some tips on editing. But this ended up to be a grammar book. Rules, rules and more rules. It is known to be a classic book of editing but one needs a lot of practise and multiple sittings of reading to master the content.
 
When I was going through the rules, I didn’t even know that some of the rules existed. I found it difficult to remember them too.This book has given me a checklist to edit any content I write.
But the rules are a bit confusing and need to be read over and again to perfect them.
 
The first block deals with elementary rules of usage. Some of them feel like common sense while a few others made me feel that “Why was I not taught this back in school?”. The rules need to be revisited over and again to start applying them.
 
A few things which will be learnt in this block are
 

  • Form the possessive singular of nouns with ‘s
  • In a series of three or more terms with a single conjunction, use a comma after each term except the last
  • Enclose parenthetic expressions between commas
  • Place a comma before and or but introducing an independent clause
  • Do not join independent clauses by a comma
  • Do not break sentences in two
  • A participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the grammatical subject
  • Divide words at line-ends, in accordance with their formation and pronunciation

 

The second block deals with elementary principles of composition. The most interesting part of this block is usage of negative form. It never occurred to me that a negative sentence is far less effective than a positive one. But when I had to change all my statements to positive, it looked like a humongous task. This rule could have been explained more clearly to make it more easily implementable. Other aspects which can be learnt in this block are
 

  • Make the paragraph the unit of composition: one paragraph to each topic
  • As a rule, begin each paragraph with a topic sentence; end it in conformity with the beginning
  • Use the active voice
  • Put statements in positive form
  • Omit needless words
  • Avoid a succession of loose sentences
  • Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form
  • Keep related words together
  • In summaries, keep to one tense
  • Place the emphatic words of a sentence at the end

 
I found the third block a bit boring because it is not something which I could related to. It talked more about headings, titles and references. But it is definitely of use to those who use it regularly.

The fourth block is again an interesting one as it deals with words and expression which are commonly misused. I had been collecting them from every possible place. This helped me add a good list to my collection.

The fifth block deals with commonly misspelled words. Again not much of use because we write electronically these days and the software shows that we are misspelling the word.

Overall, the book was interesting but definitely not a book to read in one sitting and put it aside. It needs to be read everyday like a bible. Every concept needs to be mastered and implemented diligently to see a stark improvement in writing.

Next steps:

Keep reading one rule per day again to master it.

Happy editing!

 

100 day Photography Challenge

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.
Maya Angelou

 
I have been doing a lot of challenges since last year but for none of them I recorded a 100 day streak. This challenge made me break my own record for streaks.
 

How was this possible?

 
I struggled hard when I did 30 day blogging challenge. It used to take me a lot of time to think of a topic to write an article and then do the required research. There used to be days when I came back home after working for 14 hours and it used to be one of the most difficult times to sit down and write an article.
 
Photography wasn’t like that at all. It was easy. All I had to do is have a look at my surroundings and click what I find beautiful. There were definitely days when nothing I clicked came out as beautiful as I wanted them to be. But what mattered is me making it a habit.
 

How did it change my life?

 
One of my friends clicks awesome photographs. I always encouraged her saying “You should start your own website. You are so talented.” She simply brushed it off saying “Anyone can click photos.” I retorted that I don’t own a good phone like her. She simply replied that she clicked even when she didn’t have a great phone.
 
That was the moment I decided that even I will start clicking photos. That evening on my way home, I started clicking whatever I found beautiful. After clicking 30 odd photos, I noticed that a few of them looked really beautiful. Coincidentally, that evening my friend also clicked the same places I did. But hers looked better. That was when she introduced me to an editing tool and Instagram. There was no looking back since that day.
 
On the first day, I posted the photos as my Whatsapp status. My whatsapp started flooding with appreciation. One of my friends who is a photographer said that he was pleasantly surprised that I has this angle. That was a good compliment for me to start taking photography seriously.
 
I started bugging my friend, who inspired me to click photos, to review my photos. I forced her to be my mentor even though she was not ready for it. On the fourth day, she was sick. I enquired about her health and then shamelessly asked her to give her feedback on the photos I clicked. That was the moment, I realised that I crossed that line where it comes under bugging and no more of helping. But she put it in a mild way that I was being an over enthusiastic student.
 
Since I can’t travel to click pictures, I used to click during my commute. I had my favourite window seat in my office van. I used to be annoyed if I didn’t get that because I would miss out on clicking good pictures that day. I used to get weird stares from the people in my cab for my struggle to click pictures. One such day, I told my cab friend about my new hobby. She looked at my pictures and narrated a story on what good photography is. That one story changed the way I look at photography and I started to introduce life into the pictures.
 
Over time, I was running out of ideas. This gave me inspiration to go back to my routine of morning jog at the Marina beach. I started waking up without an alarm by 5:30 AM. I had something to look forward to every day. My day used to start on a brilliant note. I also clicked some of the best photos in the beach. The other joggers told me what are some ideal places to click photos on the beach.
 
With the consistency in posting, a lot of compliments flowed in different forms, shapes and depth. Each of them were different. Even though that gave me a lot of encouragement, I felt like a fake photographer who won’t be able to sustain it for long. In midst of all this insecurity, I got an offer to be a photographer from a friend which was totally unexpected. This drove me more insecure as I had no formal training or knowledge on photography. But at the same time, I was happy that someone could recognize the potential and it was time for me to build the skill.
 
As the days passed, a few friends who don’t really give compliments also started appreciating the photographs. That pumped up my confidence levels further. The most wonderful part was a friend saying that she looks forward to my pictures everyday. That made me push myself to click something different everyday.
 
I started visiting restaurants with good ambience to explore food photography. During one such instance, I was received really well by the store manager who offered me a discount on the food. Also, I had other visitors asking me for my website and to click their pictures.
 
Even though it has been 100 days, only in the past few weeks, I had clicked some of the photos which I felt were really close to my heart. Today, at the end of the 100 days, even though the appreciation kept me going, what matters more is I am happier than before. It gave me a new identity and a new confidence in life. It made me realize how beautiful the world around me is. Just adding a little bit of colour to the pictures brightened up my life. It was a stress buster during office hours to edit the photos I already clicked. It expanded my creativity to other areas of my life. I started cooking food creatively. Overall, it was an amazing and memorable experience to cherish for a lifetime.
 

2018 July Goals

End of June reminds us that half the year has ended. If I look back at the significant things I did in the half year
 

  • Made friends at workplace
  • Extensive research on power of belief
  • Published my first book
  • 80 day streak of clicking photographs
  • Completing one year of MA in psychology
  • Started cooking decent food

 
There a couple of things which I could not do too. I was not serious about exercising. I missed it on a lot of days. I could not get much time to write articles for the blog.
 
Over the last couple of weeks, reaching my weekly goals has become tough with all the daily responsibilities. At this point of time, I want to take a break from weekly goals and stick to monthly goals as it is easier to create a schedule for the month. Once I become efficient in the various unavoidable chores and can free up more time, I will go back to weekly goals.
 

July goals

 
1.Affirmations
 
Wishing for the best and staying positive helps in going a long way in life. I had been trying to make it a habit but I have still not achieved it totally. I will do this exercise four times a day. There are three types of affirmations I will include for now
 
Type 1: General positive energy
 
Even if I woke up to a bad dream or dealing with too much stress at work, these kind of affirmations help in defusing the negativity.
 
Example:  “Today is a beautiful day. I welcome it with a smile.”
 
Type 2: Short term goals
 
In order to test the power of affirmations, I initially tested them on trivial wishes. Magically, it worked. I will do affirmations on very small wishes to grow my belief in affirmations and visualization.
 
Example: I will complete my work before deadline
 
Type 3: Long term goals
 
Even though affirmations can’t bring an immediate change in long term goals, they keep reminding me of where I want to reach in life and force me to take action towards them.
 
Example: I am a well known writer who helped a lot of people reach their dreams.
 
I will keep a reminder for this for 4 times a day. The success of habit is measured by number of times in the month ( maximum is 4 times a day) by 31*4. Hoping to hit a target of 90%.
 
2.Exercise
 
Irrespective of when I wake up in the morning, I am going to exercise at least for 10 minutes. This can be anything. I can go for a 10 minute jog or do skipping or body weights or a couple of suryanamaskaras. It doesn’t matter as long as I exercise. I am going to measure the success of this as a percentage. Number of days I exercised to the number of days in the month. The target is to achieve at least 95% to start with.
 
3.Cooking
 
It takes me around 2 hours daily to cook and eat. But I will learn to be more efficient and planned. A lot of time goes off in wondering what to cook. I will learn a good number of recipes to not have the dilemma every morning.
 
4.Words
 
Even though on this page  I scored 20,800 for vocab strength, I want to expand and improve my command over the language. Every day I will choose a word and learn its meaning. I will create a story using that word. The next day I will learn one more and use the previous day word also in that story or sentence. This way I will accumulate 31 words by the end of the month. I will use my commute time to learn this.
 
5.Editing
 
Writing is just the first step. The most beautifully written words are the ones which had been edited countless number of times. I want to learn the basics of this art. The following are a few books to start with.
 
The elements of style
Self-Editing For Fiction Writers: How To Edit Yourself Into Print
Write Right!: A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style
The Little Red Writing Book
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction
What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing
Copyediting and Proofreading for Dummies
 
Just one rule per day will do.
 
6.Knowledge on finance
 
A well read person is someone who reads books of all types. Finance is one area I want to be well acquainted with.
 
Here are a list of books to start with
 
The intelligent investor
The four hour work week
Common stocks and uncommon profits
Stocks for the long run
Learn to earn
 
I will try to cover one concept per day.
 
How was your June? What are your plans for July? Let us know in the comments section.
 
Happy July!