11 March 2011

A plug for “The Elements of Style”

Most of my students are astounded to learn that as a high school freshman I was required to memorize Strunk and White’s legendary grammar guide, The Elements of Style. After all, that was the sort of thing students had to do in 1965, not 1995.

I was, however, lucky enough to have a teacher who had been teaching since 1965, and frankly, memorizing the “little book,”as William Strunk referred to it, was one of the most useful things I ever did. The Elements of Style covers most of the grammar found on the SAT Writing section, and it’s an invaluable tool for learning to write clearly and rigorously. I had no idea that the book would help me so much in the standardized testing process; no one ever mentioned it, and at that point, I was far more concerned with surviving ninth-grade English (which was, hands down, the most difficult class I ever took).

But that brings me to a point that is all too easily forgotten: sometimes the best way to prep for a test is not to spend all your time prepping for a test, and some of the best test-prep material is not found in test-prep books.

If you’re a junior and you have two weeks — or two days — to cram for the SAT, that’s a different story, but if you’re just starting to the process, try to approach it a little differently. Having the capacity to express yourself in a clear, logical, and persuasive manner is important in and of itself, not just because it’s something that’s tested on the SAT.

Thanks, Mr. V.

Leave a Reply