I so hope that Geoffrey Pullam’s cogent critique of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White helps to bury this precious little tome. While I’ll not celebrate the losses suffered by Macmillan if the little book stops selling jillions of copies, it would be well if I no longer had to hear people who purported to be writers stating this book is some sort of English grammar Bible. It’s a little piece of crap that even I, who was a real grammar moron, thought was dumb when it was first forced on me in college, oh so many years ago.
Having suffered through an internet stonehead’s criticisms (he’s not so bad; he didn’t mean most of it)of my “Guidelines for Critique,” I might even feel sympathetic to the deceased, much-lauded recipients of Pullam’s analysis. Might. I don’t feel very sympathetic, even though White authored one of my favorite books, Charlotte’s Web.
That said, Pullam refreshed my memory as to why 99% of students and others have no clue as to what the passive voice is. To avoid in fiction writing? Well, that depends upon one’s aims, goals and the voice of the story. Pullam correctly points up that hardly any of Strunk and White’s examples of passive voice are passive voice, which is a reversal of active subject-verb order in a sentence. Most of the examples simply use the past tense form of the verb “to be.” The verb “to be” is a most valuable verbal construct in English. It indicates time and condition. To eliminate it is — moronic.
As Geoffrey Pullam not unkindly characterizes Strunk and White. RIP. Please.