The Declaration of Independence

In Congress, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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The Neighbor's Dog Knows Jay Leno?

Psychiatrists don't have a diagnosis for this in the DSM of Mental Disorders, but somebody ought to be studying why so many of us take so long to get to the point. Even in a sentence. We seem incapable of just saying it. We have to fool around first, holding off our reader. "Paranoid Personality Disorder" made it into the DSM to label those who are suspicious, grudge-bearing, combative, and preoccupied with unsubstantiated “conspiratorial” explanations. Yet "Paranoid Personality Disorder" affects only one percent of our population; the new disorder affects about ninety-five times that many.

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The Story of Y'all

I have been asked a lot of questions about words, writing, and grammar, but by far the most-asked question I have ever received is: How did people in the South start saying y’all? And why is the word used to refer to only one person? And what is the plural of y’all?

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“I Can’t Hardly Believe Miami’s Gone!”

I’m quoting President Doe.

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An Unpredictable Bull

Many years ago, a law firm in Chicago asked me to be an expert witness on the difference between that and which. The issue concerned a selling manufacturer’s non-compete clause. That at the beginning of the clause meant zero dollars for the buyer; a comma followed by which meant millions of dollars for the buyer. But the clause read "which" with no comma.

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No Two-Drink Minimum

Looking for a good laugh, most of us would opt for a comedy club rather than open a book on grammar. But grammar texts can be side-splitting. I admit to slapping my own knee over a ripping good debate on participial prepositions, and the subjunctive mood has often put me in hysterics. But if you made me vote for Funniest Grammatical Error, I would have to say the Misplaced Modifier. That’s why I encourage more professionals to stick in modifying phrases anywhere they please. We all need a good laugh:

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Ticks on a Dog's Belly

I didn’t say that; writer Donald Barthelme did, describing semicolons. A grammarian piled on: “Good writers are decisive and stay away from semicolons.” But Lynne Truss, who wrote Eats, Shoots & Leaves, called those who would denounce the semicolon “pompous sillies.” I can’t improve on that.

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A Fighting Bull in the Corrals

In a sentence, we often give our readers the first half of a thought, then we stop, stick in a comma—I’ll be right back in just a second—give them the first half of a second thought, and then the second half of that second thought, so that by the time they reach the next comma, separating the second half of the second thought from the second half of the first thought, they have forgotten the first half of the first thought. You with me? Now our readers have to go back and connect the first half of the first thought with the second half of the first thought.

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The Importance of Being Ernie

Upper Paleolithic grammarians did not ponder punctuation to spread angst and frustration among the populace. It just seems that way. They knew that punctuation allows language to make sense. No punctuation, no sense. Or worse, a different sense.

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Little Burnt, Corkscrew Hairs

You’ve heard the story. About the freshman from Boise? Lost on the Harvard campus? No? Well, he’s standing in the quad, confused. Can’t find the library. So he sees this upperclassman, walks over, says, “Excuse me. Where’s the library at?” Upperclassman pats him on the head, says, “At Hahvahd we never end a sentence with a preposition.” Freshman from Boise tries again. “So, where’s the library at, asshole?” (I’m quoting.)

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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 nine patents to WordRake's unique technology, and Harvard Law School has recognized WordRake as "Disruptive Innovation."