On another hand, some of the lessons are sticky (in cyber terms). The day after reading about til, the word fairly jumped out of any text I read, and I felt embarrassed and self-conscious every time I started to use it incorrectly. (Using it at all is incorrect.) Too many of the writing road bumps now jar my trip through any literature. I cringe at the word "impact" after seeing Accident 53, "Overuse of impact," almost two pages of ravings. Yes, Elster hit on some mistakes I am making after too many decades of writing and editing. Some might think that alone makes the book worth reading. Another result, however, is that my blog posts have become doubly difficult to compose!
There's also the question of what's right and what's not in using English words. Quite a few of Elster's diatribes are simply matters of personal taste, often presented with a supercilious attitude toward those who disagree with him. Yet, he doesn't hesitate to cite sources on his side and lambast writers of a different opinion, citing titles and issues where the mistakes occurred. He spares not even our hometown newspaper, calling it a "fish wrap." Yes, I know, old journalistic joke, not an intended insult. Or is it?
Many of the entries elicit a yawn and not a few made me wonder who would say or write that? Others are simple spelling errors and not a few, reminders of eighth grade punctuation lessons. It is pleasing to see some I used for blog posts, usually beginning "Don't confuse…." Thankfully, I notice no listing for ellipses.
On the whole, The Accidents of Style is not suitable as reference material for writers, though it does have a lengthy, useful Bibliography. It is fun to read and would be more enjoyable if the author were not so snotty about his preferences and others' gaffes.