If you last read The Elements of Style [ISBN 9781594200694, The Penguin Press] years ago and would most likely not read it from cover to cover again, this reissue of the book with illustrations can draw you back to the text—a good thing, since rereading the material is most useful. The advice on writing still applies. The illustrations are zany and welcome, making the reader stop and think more about the material. For example, the book states, “enclose parenthetical expressions between commas.” The accompanying example sentence is “the best way to see a country, unless you are pressed for time, is by foot.” An accompanying illustration shows people on a rock at the top of a mountain. It would take many words to explain the illustration. The idea is that these people could arrive at this mountain top in one way—by foot.
About the illustrator
The publisher of the book, Penguin Group, provides following information about the illustrator:
”Maira Kalman is acknowledged by the E. B. White estate as the single artist trusted to illustrate the revered The Elements of Style. She is the offbeat and wildly talented illustrator of 12 children’s books, numerous covers for The New Yorker magazine, fabrics for the fashion designers Isaac Mizrahi and Kate Spade, watches and accessories for the Museum of Modern Art, and a mural at the elegant Wavehill estate in Riverdale, among other projects. Her sophisticated and witty images that are yet bright and fanciful have won her a devoted following, especially among young urbanites.”
What do Penguin Group publishers say about the illustrated version? “William Strunk and E. B. White’s classic writing manual, The Elements of Style, has been enriched to include vibrant, witty, and instantly recognizable images by Maira Kalman in a beautiful illustrated edition. Every English-language writer knows Strunk and White’s famous little writing manual, The Elements of Style. Many people between the ages of 17 and 70 can recite the book’s mantra–make every word tell– and still refer to their tattered grade-school copy when in need of a hint on how to make a turn of phrase clearer, or a reminder on how to enliven prose with the active voice.”
Considering that millions of copies have been sold to millions of devotees, you might not think to ask what could enhance this (almost) perfect classic. In fact, the addition of illustrations allows readers to experience the book’s contents in a completely new way, making the whole learning experience more colorful and clear, as well as adding a whimsical element that complements the subtly humorous tone of the prose. The Elements of Style Illustrated will come to be known as the definitive, must-have edition.
The Elements of Style Illustrated brings a fresh immediacy to the well-loved, much-valued, and still on-point work that has become an institution. While giving the classic work a jolt of new energy to appeal to contemporary readers, Kalman’s illustrations are themselves timeless, designed to sit alongside the ever-enduring manual for another 50 years and more.
Learn More About Maira Kalman
This article originally appeared in the STC Northeast Ohio chapter newsletter Lines and Letters, Volume 23, Issue 4, December 2006. Reprinted with permission of the author.