The Gold Standard Turns 50

I got my first rejection slip for a written submission when I was 16 years old. Six months earlier I had sold a joke to Hustler magazine for $50, so I thought I'd arrived as a freelance writer. Bob Osborn thought otherwise. I remember his memo like The Father of BMX journalism handed it to my yesterday…


Story is weak. Fails to lead reader to a strong point.


The editor and publisher of the world's first and best glossy BMX magazine wasn't as dismissive as his hastily scribbled note makes him appear. When I met my journalistic mentor at an NBL National in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, in 1979, I asked Bob for advice on how to improve my prose for the pages of his Most Factory Magazine.

"Read Strunk & White's Elements of Style"

I did as Oz recommended, and it changed my life. After a brief stint as the editor of a forgettable BMX rag in Florida, I took a job at a now defunct BMX brand in California. One of my responsibilities at Torker and Max included writing copy for catalogs and press releases. In 1984 one of those press releases caught Bob's eye. Six years after dismissing my first stab at BMX journalism for the hackery it no doubt was, Bob Osborn offered me a position on his young publishing company's staff. I parlayed Bob's vote of confidence into a raise from my current employer at the time, but six months later the karmic demons of big business played their hand and Max and Torker went bankrupt. I eventually landed an editorial seat at BMX Action's vastly inferior competitor, but the seeds from my childhood dream were planted. I was a writer. And 25 years later, I still have my doubts.

The Elements of Style turns 50 this month. Much has been said and even more (mostly well) written about this quaint primer for young scribes. I have always found its recommendations helpful. Others, not so much.

No matter how you feel about The Elements of Style, its impact on how American writers use the word cannot be denied. Thanks, misters Osborn, Strunk and White.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

McGoo, man... I met you so long ago, I can't even remember which bad knickname I had then. How the hell did I ever slip into Wizard past you. Oz musta been sleepin'. Keep in mind, though, Oz used to use sentences like "Holy strato-radical atmospherin' Batman." Dig the blog, keep it up- Steve Emig, aka Empig, Emicrud, Heave, Heevin' Steven, E.Mig, M.Ig, Sluggo, The White Bear...