Rowling & Strunk and White

Readability by Jim Adam

The strengths of Rowling’s prose read like a summary of Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style”:

  • varied sentences, both in length and structure
  • use of the active voice
  • limited use of “to be” verbs and related constructs (“there were,” “it was,” “she was”)
  • balanced use of rare verbs (slam, snatch, swagger) with more common ones (close, take, walk)
  • a preference for concrete nouns that appeal to the five senses
  • carefully selected modifiers
  • use of more specific transitional words and phrases (because, though, which) rather than relying entirely upon “and,” “but,” and “then”

The Potter prose isn’t afraid to use adverbs (including adverbs in dialogue tags), for which all writers should be grateful.