In his first edition, Strunk describes the book as follows: "It aims to lighten the task of instructor and student by concentrating attention ... on a few essentials, the rules of usage and principles of composition most commonly violated." This original was revised in 1935 by Strunk and Edward A. Tenney and published under the title The Elements and Practice of Composition. After Strunk's death, it was again revised by E. B. White, an editor at The New Yorker who had been one of Strunk's students. This 1959 edition of The Elements of Style (often referred to as simply Strunk & White) became a companion to millions of American writers and college freshmen.
Strunk earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Cincinnati in 1890, and Ph.D. at Cornell University in 1896. While he taught English at Cornell for forty-six years, the only other book Strunk wrote was English Metres (published locally in 1922). Better known as an editor, Strunk edited important works by authors including William Shakespeare, John Dryden, and James Fenimore Cooper. He served as literary consultant to the 1936 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film version of Romeo and Juliet.
Strunk married Olivia Emilie Locke in 1900, and they had two sons and a daughter.