William Strunk, Jr.

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William Strunk Jr. (1 July 1869, Cincinnati, Ohio – 26 September 1946, Poughkeepsie, New York) was an American writer, Professor of English at Cornell University, and author of the first editions of The Elements of Style (1918) a writing guide to English usage. He privately published The Elements of Style for the use of his students, in the course of which it acquired “the little book” sobriquet. English Metres (1922) was Strunk’s other published book, which, like The Elements of Style, he also privately published.

In the introduction to the first edition of The Elements of Style (1918), Strunk said that “it aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention . . . on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated.” In 1935, Strunk and Edward A. Tenney revised, retitled, and published the 1918 edition as The Elements and Practice of Composition (1935). In the late 1950s, the novelist E. B. White, an editor at The New Yorker magazine, and a former student of Strunk, revised the 1935 edition as The Elements of Style (1959), which edition is colloquially referred to as Strunk & White.

Strunk earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Cincinnati in 1890, and a doctorate at Cornell University in 1896. He taught English at Cornell University for forty-six years, and, besides his books, was better known as an editor of works by William Shakespeare, John Dryden and James Fenimore Cooper. In 1936, he was the literary consultant for the Romeo and Juliet (1936) film version by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio. In 1900, Strunk married Olivia Emilie Locke, with whom he had three children.

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