(from various sources, including the Web)


QUESTION: Why are prison and jail synonyms but prisoner and jailer are opposites?


ADVICE FOR ASPIRING WRITERS: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do for them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re still happy. – Dorothy Parker

“Writers and politicians are natural rivals. Both groups try to make the world in their own images; they fight for the same territory.” – Salman Rushdie in “Imaginary Homelands”

"The danger of communication lies in the assumption it has been accomplished."  — G. B. Shaw

“A writer is not a writer because he has written some books. A writer is not a writer because he teaches literature. A writer is only a writer if he can write now, tonight, this minute.” -- Charles Bukowski

"Dabbling in the worlds that others think matter more than anything else in life is both the bane and the glory of the freelance life. – Dave Roberts



A dangling participle walks into a bar...

A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”

A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.

Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

A question mark walks into a bar?

A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

Arial and Garamond walk into a bar. The bartender says, "Get out -- we don't serve your type."

A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.

Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.

A synonym strolls into a tavern.

At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar -- fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.

A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.

Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapses to the bar floor.

A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.

An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.

The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.

A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned a man with a glass eye named Ralph.

The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.

A dyslexic walks into a bra.

A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.

An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television getting drunk and smoking cigars.

A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.

A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

A hyphenated word and a non-hyphenated word walk into a bar and the bartender nearly chokes on the irony.



We all know we use an apostrophe to show possessive, right? Things like “the boy’s” or “the building’s” show ownership. So how about words that show possessive without having an apostrophe:  its, his, hers, ours, yours, and theirs.

And sometimes, the apostrophe does not indicate possession. In fact, it can replace any number of other words including us and does:

us (let’s eat)

is (it’s ready)
has (he’s eaten)
does (what’s he want?)


"I" before "E," right?  Except when your foreign neighbor Keith receives eight counterfeit beige sleighs from feisty caffeinated weight lifters. Weird, righ?


Is it "complete", "finished" or "completely finished"? 

No English dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between these two words "Complete" or "Finished". In a recent linguistic competition held in London and attended by, supposedly, the best in the world, Samdar Balgobin, a Guyanese man, was the clear winner with a standing ovation which lasted over 5 minutes. The final question was:

'How do you explain the difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED in a way that is easy to understand? Some people say there is no difference between COMPLETE and FINISHED.'

Here is his astute answer: "When you marry the right woman, you are COMPLETE.

When you marry the wrong woman, you are FINISHED. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are COMPLETELY FINISHED!"

The plural of ox is oxen. So the plural of box is boxen?

If dehumidify is the opposite of humidify, does devote mean to take back your vote?  And does debrief mean for a man to remove his undies?

The opposite of to take is to give. Why, then, are a caretaker and caregiver the same?

Try to catch up with this one: Why is a running joke the same as a standing joke?

Lead rhymes with read.

Lead also rhymes with read.

Funny, isn’t it, that we cook bacon and bake cookies?

That the second hand on a clock is really its third hand.

Rich, richer, richest; big, bigger, biggest…right? So are temper and tempest the comparative and superlative of temp?


“I don’t much miss editors, except for the very few great ones who aren’t insulated morons or breathtakingly negligent and careless, who aren’t shameless lying bastards, who aren’t visionless mandarins of the status quo, air-headed cheerleaders for fatuous trends, or tyrants of self-aggrandizing little fiefdoms. The truly good ones, though, are like second, better selves – precious and indispensable, a writer’s grace and blessing. To these guardian angels, I offer my endless gratitude.” – National Book Award Winner Bob Shacochis


“Writing is a damn funny game. Rejection helps because it will make you write better; acceptance helps because it keeps you writing.” -- Charles Bukowski


The past, the present and the future walked into a bar.
It was tense.



A -- Be ACCURATE. Don't pass the wrong along.
B -- Be BRIEF. Don't waste space or words.
C -- Be CLEAR and COMPLETE. These are absolute essentials. Without them, you do nothing but confuse your reader.
D -- Be DARING. Use the spirit of adventure and experiment that is within you.
E -- Be ENTHUSIASTIC. Write with urgency, as if you truly care.
F -- FINE TUNE. Edit the best you can and then edit again.
-- Peter P. Jacobi, Professor Emeritus at Indiana University.

“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom.” -- Welsh Writer Roald Dahl

“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different from that from which it was torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.” -- Nobel-prize-winning poet T.S. Eliot

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." -- W. Somerset Maugham

"We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art." – Henry James

"Planning to write is not writing. Outlining, researching, talking to people about what you're doing, none of that is writing. Writing is writing." -- E.L. Doctorow

"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. The only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick." -- Robert Heinlein

"The literary business is a contact sport-you have to like bruises and knocks to stay in it." -- Wallace Stegner

"The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps." -- Robert Benchley

"Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards." -- Robert Heinlein

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." -- Mark Twain

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit." -- Richard Bach

"Only after I took up writing as a full-time occupation did I recognize that facile encouragement of an aspiring author who lacked the talent, discipline, or bulldog temperament for the freelancer's way of life did him a disservice." -- David Roberts, as a college writing professor, before he made it as an outdoors writer

"Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." -- Flannery O'Connor

"Language is the ultimate control system legislating thought, feeling and apparent sensory perception." -- William Burroughs

"Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers." -- T. S. Eliot


The 4 Stages of Writer's Block:

  1. This is bloody difficult. I may be blocked.
  2. Oh no, oh no. I can't manage this bit at all.
  3. Gloom, gloom. Bloody hell. If I'm honest with myself I can't write any of it.
  4. The truth is, I just can't write at all. I'm a fraud, and finally I have been found out.
    --Alistair Beaton, author/playwright


"Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire." -- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin



I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we're apart. I can be forever happy -- will you let me be yours? -- Gwen


I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we're apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? -- Yours, Gwen



1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?



There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England. French fries are not from France. Sweetmeats are candies. Sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. Why is it that 'to doctor' a document implies negative alterations, but 'to vet' a document implies positive changes? And why is it that a good man and a good guy the same thing, but a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?


Quicksand is slow acting, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers do not groce and hammers don't ham. If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices? One can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance (or a hot chick and a cool chick), be the same while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.



Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter: Eskimo Pi
2000 pounds of Chinese soup: Won ton
1 millionth of a mouthwash: 1 microscope
Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement: 1 bananosecond
Weight an evangelist carries with God: 1 billigram
Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour: Knot-furlong
365.25 days of drinking low-calorie beer because it's less filling: 1 lite year
16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone: 1 Rod Serling
Half of a large intestine: 1 semicolon
1000 aches: 1 kilohurtz
Basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower
Shortest distance between two jokes: A straight line.
453.6 graham crackers: 1 pound cake
1 million microphones: 1 megaphone
1 million bicycles: 2 megacycles
2000 mockingbirds: 2 kilomockingbirds
10 cards: 1 decacards
1 kilogram of falling figs: 1 Fig Newton
1000 cubic centimeters of wet socks: 1 literhosen
1 millionth of a fish: 1 microfiche
1 trillion pins: 1 terrapin
10 rations: 1 decoration
100 rations: 1 C-ration
2 monograms: 1 diagram
8 nickels: 2 paradigms
3 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital: 1 I.V. League
100 Senators: Not 1 decision



Here are some words that could mean the opposite of what we think they mean.

Buckle, to clip together. Buckle, to crack apart.
Dusted, removed a coating. Dusted, coated lightly.
Oversight, supervision. Oversight, neglect.
Qualified, completely competent. Qualified, limited.
Cleave, to separate. Cleave, to adhere closely.
Clip, to cut out. Clip, to put together.
Sanction, approval. Sanction, disapproval.
Temper, to soften. Temper, to strengthen.



"The one drawback to writing is the being alone. The writing part. The lonely-garret part."
      -- Chuck Palahniuk ("Fight Club", "Choke")


"We have a language that is full of ambiguities; we have a way of expressing ourselves that is often complex and allusive, poetic and modulated; all our thoughts can be rendered with absolute clarity if we bother to put the right dots and squiggles between the words in the right places. Proper punctuation is both the sign and the cause of clear thinking. If it goes, the degree of intellectual impoverishment we face is unimaginable."
      -- Lynne Truss, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves"


NEWSWEEK defines "freelancer" (May 17, 2004): "'Hack' is short for 'hackney': 'One who is used to do mean or servile work for hire. (Oxford English Dictionary)' That includes carriage, or taxi drivers and ladies of the evening - both uses of the work 'hack' that date to the 18th century. Somehow, writers were also lumped in with that group - in the sense of 'a literary drudge who hires himself out to do any and every kind of literary work.' In journalism, we have another term for people like that: freelancers."
Well, thaannkkk youuuu. - CH


Once you leave school, 98% of all you learn - new ideas about the world, your profession, other people - comes from the media.


"The secret to being a successful author...hard work is the answer."
      -- Stephen E. Ambrose, author/historian

"The danger of censorship in the United States is less from business or the religious right or the self-righteous left than from the self-censorship of artists themselves, who simply give up. If we can't see a way to get our story told, what is the point of trying? I wonder how many fine, inspiring ideas are strangled in the womb of the imagination because there's no way past the gates of commerce."
     -- Frank Peirson, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in the LA TIMES, 5/26/03


Stephen King on Writing:
"Writing isn't about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it's about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It's about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy."


Annie Dillard on Editing:
"Courage utterly opposes the bold hope that this is such fine stuff the work needs it, or the world. Courage, exhausted, stands on bare reality: this writing weakens the work. You must demolish the work and start over. You can save some of the sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some of the paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves or hard-won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now. (Are you a woman, or a mouse?)" - THE WRITING LIFE


Being Married to a Writer as seen by Consuelo de Saint-Exupery (wife of Antoine de Saint-Exupery) on:
"Oh, it's a profession, a religious vocation to be the companion of a great composer. It's a profession you learn only after years of practice - for it can be learned. I was a fool. I thought that I, too, had a right to be admired for his work. I thought it belonged to both of us. What a mistake! In fact, nothing belongs more fully to an artist than his creation - even if you give him your youth, your money, your love, your courage, nothing belongs to you. It is pure childishness to say, 'Oh, yes, I helped my husband, I did.' ... Certainly a woman always helps a man to live, but she can also make it more difficult for him to work."


Anton Chekhov on Life as a Writer:
"Day and night I am held in the grip of one besetting thought, to write, write, write! Hardly have I finished one book than something urges me to write another and then a third, and then a fourth-I write ceaselessly. I am, as it were, on a treadmill. I hurry forever from one story to another and can't help myself. Do you see anything bright and beautiful in that?...I do not forget for an instant that an unfinished story is awaiting me...The best years of my youth were made one continual agony for me by my writing."  


"It is as dangerous for society to attract and indulge authors as it is for grain-dealers to raise rats in their granaries." – Maupassant


"Nobody except a fool ever wrote but for money." - Mark Twain


"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." - Douglas Adams


Nobody's parents tell their kids to become writers. Everybody knows that glorified poverty attends our glorious profession. - NPR's Andrei Codrescu



Eye halve a spelling chequer It came with my pea sea It plainly marques four my revue Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
Eye strike a key and type a word And weight four it two say Weather eye am wrong oar write It shows me strait a weigh.
As soon as a mist ache is maid It nose bee fore two long And eye can put the error rite Its rare lea ever wrong.
Eye have run this poem threw it I am shore your pleased two no Its letter perfect awl the weigh My chequer tolled me sew.
-Sauce unknown


Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht yhe frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mind deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. amzanig huh?


Is it better to be a jock or a nerd? Michael Jordan having "retired," with $40 million in endorsements, he makes $178,100 a day, working or not. If he sleeps 7 hours a night, he makes $52,000 every night while visions of sugarplums dance in his head. If he goes to see a movie, it'll cost him $7, but he'll make $18,550 while he's there. If he decides to have a 5 minute egg, he'll make $618 while boiling it. He makes $7,415/hour more than minimum wage. He'll make $3,710 while watching each episode of Friends. If he wanted to save up for a new Acura NSX ($90,000) it would take him a whole 12 hours. If someone were to hand him his salary and endorsement money, they would have to do it at the rate of $2.00 every second. He'll probably pay around $200 for a nice round of golf, but will be reimbursed $33,390 for that round. Assuming he puts the federal maximum of 15% of his income into a tax deferred account (401k), his contributions will hit the federal cap of $10,500 at 8:45am on January 1st. If you were given a penny for every 10 dollars he made, you'd be living comfortably at $65,000 a year. He'll make about $19.60 while watching the 100 meter dash in the Olympics, and about $15,600 during the Boston Marathon. While the common person is spending about $20 for a meal in his trendy Chicago restaurant, he'll pull in about $5600. This year, he'll make more than twice as much as all U.S. past presidents for all of their terms combined. Amazing isn't it? However...If Jordan saves 100% of his income for the next 500 years, he'll still have less than Bill Gates has at this very moment. Game over. Nerd wins.