Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 624
William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who set his major novels in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi, is the only author whom Strunk and White use twice as a positive example. Faulkner is praised for the concrete details he uses to make his setting seem real and for an individual style that makes his writing immediately recognizable.
E. M. Forster
Strunk and White use an excerpt from the work of the English writer E. M. Forster as an example of laudable sentence structure. Primarily known as a novelist, Forster also wrote short stories and essays.
American poet Robert Frost, who won four Pulitzer Prizes, is contrasted with Walt Whitman in a passage that discusses the importance of individual style.
Wolcott Gibbs was an editor and a writer on the staff of the New Yorker from its early days. Gibbs is best remembered today for his short, humorous, and highly quotable comments on a variety of topics, and it is such a comment that Strunk and White quote in their book.
Strunk and White contrast the spare style of American author Ernest Hemingway with the detail- laden prose of William Faulkner to illustrate differences in individual style.
In a humorous paragraph, Strunk and White use the first line of Abraham Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address to explore ‘‘the line between the fancy and the plain, between the atrocious and the felicitous.’’ The authors declare that Lincoln ‘‘was flirting with disaster’’ with his opening line (‘‘Four score and seven years ago’’) but that the president ‘‘achieved cadence while skirting the edge of fanciness.’’ They offer several possible rephrasings of the line and explain why each is inferior to Lincoln’s choice.
W. Somerset Maugham
Strunk and White use a paragraph from the English writer W. Somerset Maugham to support their argument that the pronouns ‘‘he’’ and ‘‘his’’ should be used when a writer is referring to both genders, avoiding what they consider the clumsy and unnecessary use of ‘‘he or she’’ and ‘‘his or her.’’
The English author George Orwell once ‘‘translated’’ a short passage from the King James Bible into flat, colorless contemporary prose as a way of ridiculing the latter kind of writing. Strunk and White reproduce Orwell’s exercise for the same purpose.
Strunk and White take a famous line from American patriot Thomas Paine (‘‘These are the times that try men’s souls’’) and recast it in several ways to show why Paine’s simple declarative sentence is the most powerful form in which to express his thought.
In their only quotation from another volume on style, Strunk and White quote British philosopher Herbert Spencer in his Philosophy of Style on the difference between vague writing and vivid writing.
California-born writer Jean Stafford won the Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for ‘‘The Short Stories of Jean Stafford.’’ Strunk and White quote her story ‘‘In the Zoo’’ as an example of writing made vivid through imagery.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Two lines from a poem by Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson provide the last example in the book of what Strunk and White consider good writing; Strunk and White credit Stevenson’s ‘‘plainer style’’ for the enduring popularity of his poetry.
An excerpt from the work of American poet Walt Whitman is contrasted with one from Robert Frost to demonstrate the unique style of each writer.
Thomas Wolfe wrote four autobiographical novels of the American South before he died at an early age. Strunk and White use one sentence from Wolfe in discussing sentence structure. The authors praise Wolfe’s sentence structure while hinting that he was nonetheless guilty of creating overblown prose.