The Elements of Style refers to stylistic or linguistic attributes associated with highly prized language practices.


A rhetor’s style plays an impactful role on comprehension. Thus, identifying stylistic or linguistic attributes associated with readability has been a long-term preoccupation of writers.

In 1918, William Strunk published The Elements of Style. Remarkably, much of Strunk’s advice on elementary rules of usage remains relevant today. That said, important stylistic changes have occurred over the past century, particularly due to disruptions in communication tools (e.g, the internet).

The following language practices are highly prized in contemporary discourse:

  1. Brevity, Clutter, Concision
  2. Clarity, Simplicity
  3. Directness
  4. Flow, Coherence, Unity
  5. Substantive Prose
  6. Visual Language

Additional articles on Elements-of-style:

  1. Avoid Unnecessary “to be” Verbs

    Why eliminate unnecessary “to be” verbs? When a writer consistently uses unnecessary “to be” verbs, the writing can sound dull...

  2. Avoid Unnecessary Shifts in Verb Tense

    Why is it important to avoid unnecessary shifts in verb tense? The verb tense expresses a sense of time in...

  3. Creating Flow via Repetition

    Writers enhance flow by repeating key words or phrases in a text to invoke recall and pathos. Repetition is key...

  4. Edit for Brevity, Clutter, Concision

    How can unnecessary words or phrases be eliminated? Revise redundant phrases, synonymous terms, and unnecessary word pairs. Quickly speeding (speeding...

  5. Edit Strings of Prepositional Phrases

    Eliminate choppy writing by avoiding unnecessary prepositions. When used in moderation, prepositions are invaluable: they work as connecting words, linking...

  6. Eliminate “to be” Verbs

    Make your sentences pack a punch. Eliminate unnecessary "to be" verbs. In our daily speech and in rough drafts, we...

  7. Executive Summary

    A summary uses the writer’s own words to concisely explain the main point(s) or major argument(s) of a source or...

  8. Exercise: Maintain a High Verb-to-Noun Ratio

    Create a persuasive, dynamic voice by packing your sentences with verbs rather than nominalizations. You can imbue your language with...

  9. Read Your Paper Aloud to Check Cohesiveness

    Why is it valuable for writers to read their own work aloud? Reading their own work aloud gives writers the...

  10. Sentence Patterns

    Explore the effects of different sentence patterns on reading comprehension. When assessing whether your sentences are too long or complex,...

  11. Vary Sentence Structure

    Why is it important to vary sentence structure? Too many simple and compound sentences can make writing sound choppy, but...

  12. What to Think about When Writing for a Particular Audience

      Most of the students in the audience are under the age of thirty, with the majority falling between the...

  13. Writing Concisely and Avoiding Redundancy

    Conciseness Improves Flow Unfortunately, many writers use sentences that are too wordy.  This is not to suggest that lengthy sentences...

  14. You-Centered Business Style

    Considering the rhetorical aspects of any writing situation, such as purpose, stance, and audience, is an essential part of adapting...