Skip to content

Elwyn Brooks White (E.B. White)

We have all heard of "Charlotte's Web" and those who haven't read the book have, most likely, seen the animated movie. The book was published on October 15, 1952. In honor of Wilbur, I refrained from eating bacon for breakfast 17 days ago! OK, so it's true that I didn't eat bacon on October 15th, but it had nothing to do with Wilbur. E.B. White also wrote the children's stories, "Trumpet of the Swan" and "Stuart Little." Although the three stories were originally created for his nieces and nephews, he was encouraged to have them published.

White was an essayist and long-time columnist at New Yorker magazine and Harper's between 1927 - 1943. He also revised his former professor William Strunk's book, "The Elements of Grammar." This little handbook is a staple in every writer's personal library. White emphasized clarity of expression as the key to good writing, saying that a few words used with purpose are better than many words that ramble on without a point.

As I began working toward my Bachelore degree in English, I took a Rhetoric/Writing class called "Editing, Usage, Style and Clarity." In this class, my professor introduced me to E.B. White's essays. Since then, I have been hooked! When I write essays, I try to use the concise styles of E.B. White and William Zinsser.

Here are some online essays written by E.B. White:

Once More to the Lake

Death of a Pig

Here is a short essay in which E.B. White defined "The Meaning of Democracy."

"We received a letter from the Writer's War Board the other day asking for a statement on "The Meaning of Democracy." It presumably is our duty to comply with such a request, and it is certainly our pleasure. Surely the Board knows what democracy is. It is the line that forms on the right. It is the don't in don't shove. It is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles; it is the dent in the high hat. Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. It is the feeling of privacy in the voting booths, the feeling of communion in the libraries, the feeling of vitality everywhere. Democracy is a letter to the editor. Democracy is the score at the beginning of the ninth. It is an idea that hasn't been disproved yet, a song the words of which have not gone bad. It is the mustard on the hot dog and the cream in the rationed coffee. Democracy is a request from a War Board, in the middle of the morning in the middle of a war, wanting to know what democracy is."