Houston, No Problem

Every time NASA calls, it’s the same: The angst, the hand wringing, the terrible indecision, the leaving behind, the goodbyes. That well-worn black satchel sits in my office ready at a moment’s notice to go anywhere in the world. Or out of it: 30 minutes to race to the landing field to board the helicopter to take me to the airport to catch the plane to fly me to Orlando to jump in the limousine to drive me to Cape Canaveral to launch my hide into outer space. Once I get to the Cape, I’m fine. Waiting atop a rocket that rises from beach sand and points into a blue sky, I'm looking forward to eating all that Spam and Tang for free. But I have to travel light: A toothbrush, a change of underwear, and 35 words.

Unless you count Stedman’s Medical Dictionary and Black’s Law Dictionary, we have about 175,000 words in the English language, so I have to shed most of my vocabulary. It's a painful process. Do I really need the word specifically? If I had specifically with me, I could write, “Specifically, if you rip your spacesuit, your brain will bubble out of your hair follicles.” But I don’t need specifically to make the point. Well that’s one. Command Control sees how hard this is for me. They make me an offer: I can take along another 10 words if I leave behind the toothbrush or the underwear. It's a difficult choice.

I look around. “In regard to your needs currently, we provide legal and policy analysis.” Wow, I could ditch currently too; everything’s currently. That’s two. How about presently? Presently is so much like currently. “We presently represent many tribes.” Exactly which nanosecond qualifies as presently/currently? How about…now!…or…now!...or…right now!? Trying to pin down presently or currently is like trying to giftwrap tap water. I don’t need them. I’m on a roll.

On any given afternoon, the promenade teems with life. (Not just any afternoon, but a given one!)

James basically identified three areas for improvement. (Wow, and there are so many other ways to identify stuff!)

We can assist your agency in a thorough investigation of the relevant facts. (Why stick to the relevant? I want them all, every fact ever!)

Melinda Gronski has personally conducted more than 12,000 private coaching sessions. (Unless she’s a medium, there’s no other way to coach!)

A good solution might be to have appropriate Armstrong & Aldrin attorneys work in tandem with Ruiz and me. (I’m thinking some of those inappropriate folks at Armstrong & Aldrin might be more fun!)

Now I’m really getting rid of words; so many I don’t need. WordRake finds and discards seven out of the eight useless words above, plus actually, applicable, basically, effectively, essentially, obviously, and so many more. Finally, I am finished. I relax. During the countdown, I think about what life will be like on Mars. I think about the first chimpanzee to orbit the earth with a diaper and a banana. I think about the 174,955 words I had to leave behind. I think about the underwear. Three…two…one….

 

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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."