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Seen it? The Elements of Style rap [video]

February 17, 2012 |  8:14 am

The classic grammar manual the Elements of Style gets the rap treatment in the video above. It may be the only time you see authors Strunk and White posing with a 40-ounce bottle of Old English 500.

The book was first written by William Strunk Jr. in 1918; he used it with Cornell students. Years later, New Yorker writer E.B. White (the same E.B. White who wrote "Stuart Little" and "Charlotte's Web") came across it and wrote about it in the magazine. The piece caught publisher McMillan's interest and they contracted with White to revise it for a new edition, published in 1959.

That's because Strunk had died in 1946. So he and White never wandered the library stacks, sharing malt liquor.

The rap's lyrics, after the jump.

My name is Strunk
And they call me White
Here to teach you how to put the pen down right
I see that your writing is a little bit wild
These are the Elements of Style.

Will Strunk in the house but don’t call me junior
Grammatical genius. Number one word groomer.
I teach English 8 at the school of Cornell
Choose your words carefully or I’ll put you through hell.

E.B. White on the mike, former student of Strunk
A story that flows is all I need to get crunk
Write for the New Yorker, papers marked up in scarlet
I spin webs with words like my name was Charlotte.

“In the last analysis”
That’s a bankrupt expression
It’s clear you’re not learning
So listen to my lesson.

Omit needless words. Good writing is concise
When I was in your class, you repeated that thrice
9 times out of 10 ‘student body’ is wrong
Say students instead. Move your story right along.

My name is Strunk
And they call me White
Here to teach you how to put the pen down right
I see that your writing is a little bit wild
These are the Elements of Style.

Split infinitive
Never definitive
Sounds unintelligent
Dumb and inelegant.
Just say it like you meant
Always write with intent
Each word precious
Like Benjamins that you spent.

Do not join independent clauses with a comma.
But I love it, it’s cool.
I don’t care if you wanna.

Jails and schools should not be called facilities.
I hate all these writers with second-rate abilities.
Don’t use dialect 'less your ear be good
You cover East Harlem, but you ain’t from the hood.

Be clear, brief, bold with each story told
If it’s your goal to turn ink to gold.

My name is Strunk
And they call me White
Now you know how to put the pen down right
When I read your work, you know I’m gonna smile
Those were the Elements of Style.
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