I've been referred to this book by a lot of people, but one of the basic "rules" that it mentions - making your language more "cut and dry", which seems to be more of a thing with American English, whereas more complex sentence structure is commonplace in British English.

Essentially, I'm asking two questions:

  • Is there a British English equivalent of The Elements of Style?
  • Am I correct in thinking that the type of writing advocated in that book is generally considered to be substandard or uncommon in the UK?
  • 6
    The grammar rules section of The Elements of Style is considered substandard by many in the US as well.
    – Kosmonaut
    May 17, 2011 at 18:30
  • But mainly The Elements of Style is considered "American" rather than substandard. Nov 13, 2019 at 19:36
  • @ DJClayworth Not by me. Nov 13, 2019 at 19:43
  • 'The Cambridge Guide to English Usage' – 29 Apr 2004 by Pam Peters (Author). Nov 13, 2019 at 19:55
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a resource request Nov 15, 2019 at 22:07

2 Answers 2


There is Fowler's Modern English Usage for British English. It is much longer than The Elements of Style, however.

Though I have never used it personally, you may want to check out The Complete Plain Words. That appears to be a much more concise, pamphlet-style guide to British English.

As far as your second question goes, I don't know of anybody (either in the US or UK) that thinks it is better to make your writing more difficult for readers. I probably cite this essay once a week on EL&U, but Orwell's Politics and the English Language is a small 'British' style guide in itself. Orwell puts forth several stylistic rules, or rather things to avoid in order to make ones writing more clear. I only bring it up because Orwell is British and he puts forth a great argument for clarity and simplicity in writing.

Fowler too advocated for clear writing (see the section on 'Approach'):

Henry W. Fowler’s general approach to English usage was to encourage a direct, vigorous writing style, and to oppose all artificiality — firmly advising against unnecessarily convoluted sentence construction and the use of foreign words and phrases and archaisms. He opposed all pedantry, and notably ridiculed artificial grammar rules not warranted by natural English usage...

  • What about the second question?
    – aviraldg
    May 17, 2011 at 15:55
  • Hmm... looks like Fowler has the same opinion. Is that the same for most of the UK?
    – aviraldg
    May 17, 2011 at 16:04
  • 1
    It's not considered helpful to lose readers in a maze of twisty subclauses. Experienced writers grow to know how rich and convoluted they can make their language, often depending on exactly who their audience is, but they get there by learning how to be brief and clear first.
    – user1579
    May 17, 2011 at 16:49

I don't know of one, but from a quick scan, I think most of the guidance stands equally well in the UK...

Writing should be about communication not obfuscation, so following a few simple rules [Perhaps simple is the wrong word to use in relation to the English language, but...] and use of a good dictionary should be enough.

I can highly recommend:

"Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation"

A book by Lynne Truss

[Available at all good book shops]

  • 2
    "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" only covers punctuation, not grammar or other matters. And the existence of this site indicates that English grammar and usage cannot be covered by "a few simple rules". Nov 13, 2019 at 19:34
  • 1
    That's me told then...
    – NeilB
    Nov 13, 2019 at 19:42
  • 1
    It is a good book though. Nov 13, 2019 at 19:47
  • 1
    ;-) .................
    – NeilB
    Nov 15, 2019 at 17:06

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