Two Furcates and Half a Nary

A prince was about to purchase a castle high on a rocky promontory, the perfect place to defend against marauding Visigoths. His princess loved the place because of the stunning view and the intriguing array of torture devices displayed in the dungeon. As the prince was about to sign, he noticed the term bimonthly payments in his contract to purchase. Wait! Hold everything! What does that mean?

Continue reading

A Hacksaw to the Ear

It all happens so fast. If you remember, we ended last week with everything suspended: Criss on the side of the Chrysler Building, David upside down, handcuffed and straitjacketed, in a shark-infested tank. But the crowd has now turned back to me, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, to hear the rest of my story on how to write numbers.

Continue reading

Hanging with Criss and David

The other day, I was hanging out with Criss Angel and David Blaine, walking across pools and through plate glass windows, all that typical stuff. While Criss set himself on fire and David hung from a crane in a block of ice, I wowed the crowd with this amazing trick where I make useless words disappear right in front of their eyes: no hands, no props, just a WordRake button. Pure magic. The crowd burst into applause, stunned.

Continue reading

Sun Valley Serenade

After dinner in town, I returned late to the home on the lake. The other authors had been there for a good while. When I walked in, a nice woman asked if I would like a glass of white wine. I said, “Yes, I would like that.” She brought it to me, extended the glass, and as I reached for it, she pulled it back. “First,” she said, “you must sing.”

Continue reading

L.A. and Confidential

If any CHP patrolman or Starbucks barista wrote this scene in a screenplay (everybody in California from San Luis Obispo to the Mexico border is writing a screenplay), even the 19-year-old Paramount Studios summer intern would groan at the desperate ploy for a laugh. It’s funny only if it’s truly accidental and innocent, as it was. And if you hear the story on a Saturday afternoon while wine tasting with a few friends in Sideways country east of Santa Barbara, as I did, you will snort the Pinot out your nostrils, as I also did. Although Nabokov once said there’s no such thing as a “true story,” this is a true story.

Continue reading

Green Cherries in the Fruitcake

I have discovered why nobody in Congress wants to compromise: incest. If you don’t want to think beyond your own closed mind, you won’t want someone else’s ideas in there mucking things up. So that makes fertile ground for incestuous ideas—ideas that have affairs with other closely-related ideas—narrowing one’s perspective, until all the ideas in your head are first cousins.

Continue reading

Eeyore Halfheartedly Hung His Tail

Many of you know about the exciting life I lead here in a cabin in the woods, surrounded by deer, raccoons, coyotes, rabbits (that tantalize the coyotes), and all sorts of words (that tantalize me). My life is so exciting, I can spend hours entranced by the word that. Talk about a good time. But that is not a simple word; it is a mystical word. It lurks in about half of our sentences, changing chameleonlike from conjunction, to pronoun, to adjective. (We’re not even talking about the difference between that and which in a relative clause (See Tip: “The Million-Dollar Comma”); that's a different story.) That might be the most interesting word in the English language. I just made up this sentence with seven thats in a row, and the sentence is grammatically correct:

Continue reading

Alice in Law-Law-Land

The lawyers will understand. “Yeah, that’s pretty much where I live.” But I want to take the rest of you deep inside the world of law, where words get minced, teeth get gnashed, and Alice gets invoked. A world, where, if you don’t like the definition of a word, you just make up your own.

Continue reading

Flaubert's Pickles

I love the English language. So many words, so much nuance. We live in a lush vineyard of vocabulary. We stroll through, squeezing ripe, plump words, pondering. Carefully, we pick them and blend them into fine sentences that grow richer with age, deep and full-bodied or crisp and fruity, abounding with their own cherry and tobacco, pineapple and chocolate, blackberry and coffee, some with a peppery finish. Often the difference between words is so subtle, we’re not even sure there is one. Like a hint at the end: is that a soupçon of apricot or peach?

Continue reading

Parrot Skewers at Vilcabamba

Throughout history, whole societies almost overnight have gone the way of the dodo. For example, history records that the Pizarro brothers took down 10 million Inca with 168 men (plus confusing pale skin, a few blunderbusses, and a dollop of smallpox). But a little-known fact is that earlier in the 16th century, Inca society already had weakened internally, as whole segments of the population, from Machu Picchu to Vilcabamba, could not decide if they needed commas in the following sentence:

Continue reading

Writing Tips in your Inbox

Recent Posts

About Gary Kinder

Gary Kinder
Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs for the American Bar Association, the Social Security Administration, PG&E, Kraft, Microsoft, and law firms like Jones Day, Sidley, and WilmerHale. His critically-acclaimed Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea hit #7 on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake editing software to provide writers a full-time, reliable editor; to save them time and money; and to give them the confidence their writing is as clear and concise as they can make it. The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has awarded seven patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."