Gary Tinder's "WordRake" Writing Tips

About the Author

New York Times bestselling author Gary Kinder has taught over 1,000 writing programs to law firms, corporations, universities, and government agencies. In 2012, Gary and his team of engineers created WordRake, the only software in the world that edits for clarity and brevity, giving professionals more confidence when writing to clients and colleagues. Backed by seven U.S. patents, WordRake was recently hailed as "Disruptive Innovation" by Harvard Law School. And LexisNexis® Pacific has chosen the WordRake editing software to include in its new Lexis® Draft Pro.

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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:
The Pleiadian who helped us carve those huge monkeys and hummingbirds across the Nazca Plain was a tall spindly alien fella with a large head and one green bulbous eye.

Continue reading  ...

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 tried again. "So, where's the library at, Genius?" (You know what he really said, but if I put that naughty A-word in here, the etiquette police won't let me hear the end of it!)

That's one way to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.    Read more here!

Ford. Go Figure.

Most of you have seen the commercial; it's hard to miss: Ford introducing its new line of hybrids. At the end of the commercial, below the Ford logo, this sentence pops onto the screen:

 Go further.

We’re talking cars now, especially vehicles that can travel from here to beyond the old there, because of their superior fuel efficiency. So it should be farther. Right? Do all of those smart people at Ford and their ad agency really not know the difference between farther and further, which I can’t imagine, or is this a nefarious plot to undermine the intelligence of the American people? I’ll get to that in a minute.

Read more here

From Gary Kinder's "Word Rake" Writing Tips

Beat the Rake with Fergus and Juanita

A fun editing exercise

As promised, the WordRake Author has created another exercise for fun and to test your grammar editing skills. He was inspired by many of his followers who use WordRake and have written requesting a game called “Beat the Rake.” (We never outgrow that part of our childhood: making anything a game is the spoonful of sugar.) The idea here is to challenge yourselves to make every edit you think WordRake would make, then turn on WordRake and see if it finds anything else. If you don’t have WordRake yet, you can use the 7-day Free Trial at, (PCs only, at least until later in 2017).

To find the Answers without purchasing WordRake, there is a link to the Answers on the webpage. To read more and to play the editing game, click here.  

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.

My favorite explanation of semicolons comes from Lewis Thomas, who won the National Book Award in 1974 for The Lives of a Cell: “With a semicolon there you get a pleasant feeling of expectancy; there is more to come; read on; it will get clearer.”

Read more here

From Gary Kinder's "Word Rake" Writing Tips

The Million-Dollar Comma

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.

Read more here

From Gary Kinder's "Word Rake" Writing Tips

"Because We Haven't Done Vampires -- An Editing Exercise"

From Gary Kinder's "Word Rake" Writing Tips

How proficient are you at identifying and correcting grammar errors as you proofread?  Here's a fun exercise for you in the September 28, 2016 issue of Gary Kinder's "Word Rake."

“Hallelujah!” in the Hallway

From Gary Kinder's "Word Rake" Grammar Email

Present participles and gerunds --- the struggle is real!  Read all about it in the September 21, 2016 issue of Gary Kinder's "Word Rake."  


Present participles and gerunds both end in -ingflyingfishing, eating—but flying, the participle, is a verb, and flying, the gerund, is a noun. Therefore a pronoun preceding a participle must be objective (me, you, her, him, it, us, them)—and him flying scares me—but the pronoun preceding a gerund must be possessive (my, your, her, his, its, our, their)—and his flying scares me. But how do we know if the -ing word is a participle or a gerund?

First, know your purpose:

What do you think about [me] [my] raising the issue?

If who raises the issue is more important, use the objective pronoun—me. If raising the issue is more important, use the possessive pronoun—my.

Then listen to your ear:

We heard him his yelling “Hallelujah!” in the hallway.

For years I have admired him his skiing.

In the first we obviously need the objectivehim; in the second we obviously need the possessivehis.

If you aren’t sure, opt for the possessive:

We truly appreciate you your choosing SilverStar Fidelity.

Treat nouns the same way: before a participle, place the noun itself; before a gerund, make the noun possessive:

Are you objecting to the [agent] [agent’s] going with me?