Reading these two stylebooks, "Style: Lessons towards Clarity and Grace" by Joseph Williams and "The Elements of Style" by Strunk and White, has made me learn many things about what 'style' really is. I originally thought that everyone had their own 'style', much like fashion, but that is apparently not the case at all. Style must be clear and precise, organized and planned. My original opinion has been revised; style is one thing but it can be approached different ways.
Strunk and White's approach to style is that "style is the writer" and that style has to reflect the audience and the purpose of the piece. In the Introduction E.B. White says that, "Style rules of this sort are, of course, somewhat a matter of individual preference, and even the established rules of grammar are open to challenge." (xvii) Rules seem more like 'guidelines' to Mr. White, while Professor Strunk seems to give out sharp orders regarding grammar and usage.
This book taught me that style isn't a matter of individuality, but a matter of knowing your stuff and using it in an effective way. Content and presentation are the main objectives in the field of writing and I feel that Strunk and White made that fact extremely clear.
Williams book also focuses on clear and concise writing. Williams, in comparison to Strunk and White, seems to understand that rules are not completely essential for writing to be good but that they do help a lot. One thing I liked about Williams approach to good writing was that he gave reasons WHY, not just HOW it is accomplished. It seemed a lot less sharp and rigid and more of a how-to explanation. His examples were from Professional writing pieces which gave the book a more advanced feeling and almost made the writer seem more advanced and knowledgeable in his subject area. I particularly liked the organization of Williams book over Strunk and White's. Williams begins by talking about a history of bad writing and some causes of it, whereas Strunk and White begin right away with grammar do's and dont's. An interesting thing, too, is that Williams ends his Usage chapter with a "History of Good English". I feel that his organization made the book more effective and would help people adjust easier to his expectations.