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My Writing Purpose and the Genius of William Strunk

I recently wrote an article outlining my current writing purpose, focus, and goals. Today I started rereading The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and in the foreword alone I found a treasure trove of advice that aligns with my present writing endeavors.

As a self-proclaimed writer and lover of words, I wish to continually be honing my craft. If you are also a writer wanting to develop your abilities, I highly recommend reading this book.

I was delighted to find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the feelings around grammar and English in the foreword.

I couldn’t agree more. The fundamentals of English grammar are the foundation that everything in writing is built.

But then it goes on to say how the average person’s vocabulary is only around 2,000 words when there are 250,000 different words in the English language.

Isn’t that interesting?

Upon first learning this you might think this is a negative mark on someone’s abilities. If a writer only has 2,000 words in their arsenal and isn’t utilizing the other 248,000, then are they really a great writer?

Well, Shakespeare himself only used 15,000 different words in his collection of works, and here’s where the problem lies in trying to embellish your writing with too large a vocabulary — only 5,000 of those 15,000 words aren’t obsolete today.

quote from The Elements of Style by William Strunk

The final line here strikes me the most, “if you have no readers, you will have no reason to write.”

I don’t think this means that if your words do not become famous or even popular then you should give up on writing, but I think it illustrates how writing (like any art) is meant to be seen and heard and thought about.

Writing is a practice that begs to be shared and consumed by others. As writers, we don’t just want to write, we also want to be heard.

Wanting to be heard clearly by my audience compels me to follow this sound advice and write plainly so that all can understand.

After all, writing is only half-way complete without the readership on the other end, receiving the written words.

The final piece of advice I admired from The Elements of Style foreword is this:

quote from The Elements of Style by William Strunk

I plan on taking all of this advice to heart and continuing my journey as a writer by writing from my heart and continuing onward no matter what.

William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style (San Luis Obispo, CA: Spectrum Ink USA, 2018), 9.

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