Vocabulary and success go hand in hand. Investigation has shown that the man with a large number of words at his command is the one who comes to lead and direct his fellows. Through his knowledge of words, through his ability to make them express the exact shade of his meaning, he gives to his ideas real power.
— John C. Hodges
I walked into to the 50 ₵ room at the Stargvegas library the other and walked out $16.50 poorer. Oddly, most of the 33 books were neither crappy nor especially old.
See? There’s William Shatner and Princess Grace and that economist dude and some Christmas stories. Hey! Daughter C! That art book is beautiful.
One (not pictured) is the fourteenth– 2001– edition of Harbrace Handbook of English by John C. Hodges (et al.) first published in 1941. Though some chapters are slightly renamed in the newer edition, the presentation order remains the same. The quote above comes from Chapter 19, “Good Use” (1941), “Good Usage” (2001).
Thumbing through the Preface of my new book, I see that Chapter 19
has been extensively rewritten to help students write positively to and about all people. It now offers advise not only about handling matters of gender in language, but also about including members of all races, classes, ages, and orientations.
Isn’t that nice?
Left 1941; Right 2001
As you can see, the page sizes are approximately the same, although the font sizes are not– 2001’s are smaller. Not including the index, the crappy old book has 404 pages. The somewhat less crappy newer book (there are now, in 2014, eighteen editions) has 797. Both books deal with the grammar, mechanics, punctuation, elements of style,* and larger elements of the paragraph, papers and letters– things that are pretty basic. Now I ask you, why in the world does the 2001 edition need to be 97% longer than first edition?
Left 2001; Right 1941
Because the coauthors of the fourteenth edition, Suzanne Strobeck Webb, Robert Keith Miller, and Winifred Bryan Horner did not read chapter 21, Wordiness, in the first edition. * Below the fold
I draw your attention to the tenth book from the top.
Strunk & White’s Elements of Style: First edition published in 1959; Fourth– that’s 4th– edition published in 1999. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.