The Power of Paraprosdokians

Have you ever heard of the word paraprosdokian? I hadn’t, until a short time ago, and then I went down the rabbit hole to investigate further. A paraprosdokian is a sentence which consists of two parts. The first is a figure of speech and the second an intriguing variation of the first. Also called the surprise ending, it is often used for comic effect. In his book “Tyrannosaurus Lex” (2012), Rod L. Evans characterizes paraprosdokians as “sentences with ambushes, . . . as in comedian Stephen Colbert’s line, ‘If I am reading this graph correctly—I’d be very surprised.'” The word paraprosdokian comes from the Greek, meaning “beyond” + “expectation,” and is pronounced pa-ra-prose-DOKE-ee-en.

Henny Youngman’s famous joke “Take my wife – please!” is perhaps the most well-known example of a paraprosdokian in comedy. You expect that he’s using his wife as an example for a joke, but then indicates he wants you to literally take her away by adding the punchline “please!” Here are some additional examples from comedians:

  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” –Groucho Marx
  • “There’s a bunch of different crunches that affect the abs … my favorite is Nestle.” — Shmuel Breban
  • “He taught me housekeeping; when I divorce I keep the house.” –Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • “When I was a kid my parents moved a lot, but I always found them.” –Rodney Dangerfield
  • “To keep fit my grandmother walks five miles a day. She’s 97 now and we have no idea where she is.” —Anonymous
  • “Standing in the park today, I was wondering why a frisbee looks larger the closer it gets…then it hit me.”–Stewart Francis
  • “The company accountant is shy and retiring. He’s shy a quarter of a million dollars. That’s why he’s retiring.” –Milton Berle
  • “I’m a very tolerant man, except when it comes to holding a grudge.” –Robin Williams
  • I have a lot of growing up to do. I realized that the other day inside my fort. ~Zach Galifianakis

Paraprosdokians can often be found in movies and television shows. Here are some examples from both media:

  • “If I could say a few words, I would be a better public speaker.” –The Simpsons (1989)
  • “You know what they say: you can lead a herring to water, but you have to walk really fast or he’ll die.”–Golden Girls
  • “If you want to receive emails about my upcoming shows, please give me money so I can buy a computer.”–Friends
  • “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” –The Office
  • “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the War Room!” –Dr. Strangelove, or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
  • “I am a very committed wife. And I should be committed too – for being married so many times.” – Elizabeth Taylor
  • “She thinks I’m too critical. That’s another fault of hers.” –Arrested Development
  • “Behind every great man there’s a woman, rolling her eyes.” ~Jim Carrey in Bruce Almighty

Writers are not averse to using paraprosdokians to liven up their prose, keep their readers guessing, or establish a humorous tone. Here are some examples from authors:

  • “On his feet he wore…blisters.” —Aristotle
  • “I have the heart of a small boy – in a glass jar on my desk.” –Stephen King
  • “The Texan turned out to be good-natured, generous and likable. In three days no one could stand him.” –Joseph HellerCatch 22
  • “The freelance writer is a man who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.” –Robert Benchley
  • “It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision.” ~Helen Keller
  • “He’s a writer for the ages…for the ages of four to eight.” –Dorothy Parker

 “No, that is the great fallacy: the wisdom of old men. They do not grow wise. They grow careful.”  Ernest Hemingway — A Farewell to Arms

  • “When I was young, I used to think that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know it is.” – Oscar Wilde
  • “Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.” –Oscar Wilde
  • “War does not determine who is right – only who is left.” –Bertrand Russell

Popular politicians and other historical figures are often known for their wit and clever sayings.

  • “We can always count on the Americans to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all the other possibilities.” –Winston Churchill
  • “A fool and his money are soon elected.” — Will Rogers
  • “Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt.”–Herbert Hoover
  • “Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.” –Benjamin Franklin
  • “People say I’m indecisive, but I don’t know about that.” –George H.W. Bush
  • “If I had to name my greatest strength, I guess it would be my humility. Greatest weakness, it’s possible that I’m a little too awesome.” –Barack Obama
  • “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” Albert Einstein
  • “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein
  • “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln
  • “The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off.” ~Gloria Steinem
  • “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.” –Mario Andretti

Finally, here are some funny anonymous examples. Enjoy!

  • Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America?
  • When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  • The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • Always swim or dive with a friend. It reduces your chance of shark attack by 50%.
  • Silence is golden; duct tape is silver.
  • I’m great at multi-tasking. I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.
  • Kittens play with yarn, they bat it around. What they’re really doing is saying, “I can’t knit, get this away from me!”
  • Build it and they will complain.
  • I always take life with a grain of salt… plus a slice of lemon… and a shot of tequila.

Using Paraprosdokians Effectively

            As an entrepreneur, you can use paraprosdokians to add a dose of humor or surprise to your posts, on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can post them on your website to catch your customers’ attention. Use one of the many online tools to create an image with your quotation inside, such as Canva, PicMonkey, Stencil, Snappa, or one of the others. Louise Myers has some trainings on the best ways to do this:




Hollingsworth, Alyssa.  “10 of the Snarkiest Ernest Hemingway Quotes,” July 15, 2021.

Myers, Louise. “Paraprosdokians: 200 Funny One Liners for Social Media”, March 11, 2020.

Pelerin, Monty. Monty Pelerin’s World. “182 Paraprosdokians.” September 5, 2011.

Wikipedia: “Paraprosdokian.”

Your Dictionary: “Paraprosdokian: 40 Funny Sentences You Won’t Expect”:


Compiled by: Karen E. Schuster


July 13, 2021





Creative Writing is an avenue…

An avenue to anywhere and everywhere! It can range from a simple journal entry to the Harry Potter series, to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Creative writing can be as dark and macabre as you dare, or as uplifting as you feel. The creative writing process is an exercise of the mind that can show immediate results. As you let your mind soar you may surprise yourself with untapped creativity you never knew you had.

Matt Crutchfield – Writer

Creative writing can be cathartic and therapeutic as well. If something is wearing away at your spirit, write it out! Let the words flow with the honesty that only raw emotion can elicit. It may bring out fears and tears as you put pen to paper, but that’s part of the process of putting it out there, to let it go.

Creative writing can be for your eyes only, or it can become a book on the New York Times bestseller list. The control belongs to the writer and that can be very empowering. No rules and no limits. That’s what creative writing can bring to the table. A rough draft, some revisions and some insightful editing, and a finished product can be yours to enjoy.

An honest and heartfelt critique can be helpful in crafting a finished product, but nobody has the right to say how you did it was wrong. If anyone believes that they can turn and twist your story like a pretzel to make it better, that’s proof positive that creative writing can be for everybody, and anybody can write a story of their own.

In a crazy world where control can seem to be everywhere except in the palm of your hand, creative writing allows you to be the tour guide, the events coordinator, the captain, and the crew.  So feel free to let your mind wander to the four corners of the Earth, and beyond! A great editor can bring your writing to new places, by asking insightful questions designed to take your writing deeper and help it to be more thought provoking. With a little bit of conscientious editing, you’ll never know the places you will go!  


#Eagle-Eye-Editing  #creative-writing  #writing  #editing


  “Our affinity for language makes us human. We are never better than when we use words clearly, eloquently, and civilly.”  David W. Orr

Easily Confused Words – Part 2

Among, Between: The traditional rule requires between to be used only for sentences involving two items and among for sentences involving more than two, as in the following:

            He sat between his new bride and his mother-in-law.

            The bridal bouquet landed on the floor among all the single girls.

However, Jan Vanolia, in Write Right, suggests that if followed too stringently it could lead to the absurdity of “She traveled among Santa Fe, Taos, and Albuquerque.”  She suggests using between when individual relationships are emphasized and the number is unspecified (he appeared between acts) and use among with unspecified numbers if individual relationships are not emphasized (discontent among the employees.) (p. 129).

I, Me, Myself:  I is in the subjective case and should be used when it is the subject of the sentence. Me is in the objective case and should be used when it is the object of the action or thought conveyed by the verb or the object of a preposition.

My sister and I went shopping at Target with our mother. (subject)

Mom was looking for Easter dresses and shoes for my sister and me. (object of preposition “for”)

Myself  is used for emphasis (“I, myself, will accomplish that task.”) Or as a reflexive (I hurt myself  falling down the steps.) Never use myself as a substitute for I or me.

            Wrong: The money was given to my partner and myself.

Right:  The money was given to my partner and me.

Loose, Lose: Loose is an adjective meaning unrestrained or not fastened. Lose is a verb that is the opposite of win and find. I think most people know the difference between these words in speech, but they often use the incorrect spelling in their writing.

            If I don’t sew up the hole in my pocket, I will lose all of my loose change.

Principal, Principle: Principal can be an adjective or a noun. As an adjective, it refers to one who is first or foremost in importance, rank or worth, as the principal dancer in the ballet or the principal character in a film. As a noun, it’s the person who holds a high position, especially the head of an elementary or high school; the main participants in a business deal; an actor in a starring role; or a sum of money owed as a debt.

            One of the principal characters in Gone with the Wind is Scarlett O’Hara. (adjective)

The students who were involved in the prank had to speak to the principal.. (noun)

Principle is a noun that refers to a basic truth or statement, especially a system of beliefs or ideals. (The Senator swore to uphold the principles of democracy.) It may also refer to a rule or standard, especially of good behavior. (The Eagle Scout was a young man of principle.) Or it could be a statement describing the functioning of natural phenomena or mechanical processes, such as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, which says “it is impossible to measure both the speed and position of an object at the same time.”

There, There’s, Their, They’re:  These four words are frequently misused or misspelled on signs, online in posts or in texts. There can be an adverb (in or at that place—over there) or an adjective when used for emphasis (those men there can tell you). Their is a possessive adjective (their furniture). They’re is a contraction of they + are (they’re going home).

There’s is a contraction of there + is and is often misused with plural nouns:

Wrong: There’s three reasons.

Right: There are three reasons






To, Too, Two:  These three words are also often misused in writing, both in articles or in online content.

To is a preposition indicating action toward a person, place, or thing (drove to the city). It can also be an adverb used as a function word indicating direction toward (feathers wrong end to) or (run to and fro).

Too is an adverb meaning also (take the flowers too) or excessive (the house was too big for us).  It can also mean very, as in I don’t think she was too interested in the play.

Two is an adjective meaning one more than one in number.  She had two cookies and a piece of candy.

A patron, seeing the sign on the left, asked them to fix the typo. The new version is on the right. I would like to see a period after “cook” and an exclamation mark at the end of the text, but that’s probably asking too much!


More confusing and misused words will appear in “Easily Confused Words-Part Three.”


Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. 100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2016.

Venolia, Jan. Write Right! A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style. 4th Edition. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2001.


Karen Schuster, May 26, 2020

#spelling, #editing, #Eagle-Eye-Editing, #confusingwords, #usage, #grammar, #wordusage


Easily Confused Words – Part 1

“The slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”

–George Orwell

            During my 25 years of reading and correcting papers and reports for students and adults, I have come across many different spelling and usage errors. Some have made me smile and some have made me groan and shake my head. Here is a small sample of the words I have seen confused or substituted the most often. Some of my own spelling and usage demons are included in this list too.

Advice, Advise:  The noun advice means a suggestion or opinion regarding a course of action. Advise is a verb meaning to give advice, and the person who does this is an advisor or adviser (both are correct).

  • My college advisor gave me some great advice. He advised me to take a variety of courses before declaring a major.

Affect, Effect:  Affect is usually used as a verb meaning to influence or to have an effect on. (1) The noun effect means results or consequences. (2) The verb effect means to bring about.

  • The coronavirus affected all of our lives and had a dramatic effect on schools, hospitals, and businesses. (1)
  • When life returns to normal, businesses hope to effect changes in their operations. (2)

Al and All words:  Some one-word and two-word forms vary according to the meaning:

  • The ham is almost done; you are all most welcome to join us for dinner.
  • By the time we were all ready to leave, the taxi was already here.
  • We were not altogether happy about being all together at the camp.

The last two are frequently misused:

  • All right is correct, meaning entirely right or adequate, but alright is not a word.
  • A lot is correct but alot is not a word.

Capital, Capitol:  Capital and capitol are often confused because they refer to things that are related. A town or city that is the seat of government is the capital but the building in which a legislative body meets is the capitol.

  • Capital also refers to wealth, an uppercase letter, and something first rate or excellent, as in a capital idea.
  • The Capitol building which houses the U.S. Congress is always capitalized.

Complement, Compliment:  While distinct in meaning, they are often confused because they are pronounced the same and almost spelled the same. Complement is both a verb and a noun, meaning to complete a whole or satisfy a need. Compliment is also a verb and a noun meaning praise.

  • “The antique silver was a complement to the beautifully set table.” (noun) (Am. Heritage)
  • “The neutral color of the paint complements the beauty of the oak floors.” (verb) (Am. Heritage)
  • The bride paid her friend a compliment on the exquisitely wrapped gift.
  • The guests complimented the bride’s parents on the delicious dinner.

Fewer, Less:  Fewer is used with individual items that can be counted (fewer potatoes) and less is used for quantity or when the item is regarded as a single entity (less oatmeal).

  • “The fewer mistakes you make, the less embarrassment you will feel.” (Venolia)

Irregardless: This is a redundancy and is not considered standard English.  Use regardless and you won’t get into trouble with the Grammar Police.

Its, It’s:  Its is the possessive pronoun and it’s is a contraction meaning it is or it has.

  • “The apostrophe has a life of its own.” (Venolia)
  • It’s easy to put the apostrophe in its place.” (Venolia)

Lay, LieLay means to place or put down while lie means to recline. 


More confusing and misused words will appear in “Easily Confused Words-Part Two.”



Editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries. 100 Words Almost Everyone Confuses and Misuses. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2016.

Venolia, Jan. Write Right! A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style. 4th Edition. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2001.


Karen Schuster, April 19, 2020



Kat Roedell – Guest Blogger

The Downfall of Instant Publishing

If you engage on the internet via social media, news outlets, or browsing websites you will see misspellings and grammatical errors galore.  Instant publishing has its benefits, but if the writer is only reliant on spell check, the primary purpose of content – which is Communication – can be lost.  For example, several of my friends recently have published books.  In great excitement, and wishing to support them, I purchased my e-versions and downloaded them onto my kindle.  Unfortunately, my articulate, intelligent friends each failed to hire an editor for their self-published books.  Grammatical errors, syntax and construction issues abounded, and my desire to read those books left me. 

Writing is much more than putting words into a sentence.  Considerations like “Who is the audience?”,  “What is the focal point?” and “How do I keep the reader engaged?” are all important – but the most critical question “Is my message clear?” is set to the wayside when an editor is not involved in the process.

The age of instant publishing has been a detriment to new and aspiring writers.  We no longer have to jump through the hoops of learning the trade, we can self-publish at whim for minimal costs.  Editing, has unfortunately suffered from cost cutting measures. Why pay an editor when we have spell check?

Proofreading is more than just identifying typos. A good editor will find missing words, the wrong word spelled correctly (to, too and two), and duplicate words (i.e., imagine was used 5 times in the last three paragraphs).  A great editor will teach the writer excellent writing skills in construction, and word choices (connotations vs. accurate words), as well as ways to clarify communication and streamline the content.

So how do we fix this problem?  Understand that even if the writer doesn’t see the typos, grammatical errors, and poor construction, according to CBS News in Which generation is most annoyed by bad grammar?” published August 28, 2015 – at least 71% of people over 18 see the misspellings and grammatical errors in other people’s work.  That’s a huge percentage of people to irritate with subpar fiction or non-fiction content.  Consider the cost – to edit or not to edit, that is the question.

Do We Really Need Commas? Part 1

In this age of texting, tweeting, and voice-to-text messages, the lowly comma has all but been forgotten. Is it really necessary?  Will our message lack clarity if we don’t put the commas in the right places or ignore them completely?  Many people might say, “Well, I know what you mean” or “I don’t really pay attention to punctuation anymore.”  I have read many Facebook posts and texts with no punctuation at all or maybe a period at the end of a long string of run-on sentences.  This is a problem for several reasons: it takes longer for the reader to figure out the writer’s message; the real meaning may not be clear; or the writer appears to be illiterate, careless, or lazy.

On the lighter side, using a comma correctly can save lives!  

Use a comma for direct address
Use commas in a series









Jan Venolia, author of Write Right!, has this to say about commas:       

“In their search for an all-purpose rule, some writers place a comma wherever they would pause or take a breath when speaking. This heavy-breathing school of punctuation may leave readers feeling somewhat winded. On the other hand, too few commas create misunderstandings. You need to chart a course between those extremes, placing commas where they help readers grasp your meaning”  (p. 54).

A Few Rules to Keep in Mind from Write Right!

Use commas when needed for clarity:

  • To separate identical or similar words

“Whatever you’re going to do, do it right.”

  • To provide a pause or avoid confusion

            “Fashion passes, style remains.” Coco Chanel

  • To indicate omission of a word or words

“When angry, count to ten before you speak; if very angry, a hundred.” Thomas Jefferson

Be careful not to use too many commas or your writing will become tiresome.  Unless the comma is needed for clarity, you may omit it between short, closely related clauses.  Here are a few examples from Write Right! (p. 55):

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.”  Helen Keller

“I saw the angel in the marble and I just chiseled till I set him free.” Michelangelo

“Give a little love to a child and you get a great deal back.” John Ruskin


This is only the beginning of a discussion of  the rules for using commas.  I will return to the subject in a later blog, titled “Do We Really Need Commas? – Part Two.”  Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep writing!





Venolia, Jan. Write Right! A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style. 4th Edition. Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2001.


Karen Schuster, April 10, 2020

#commas, #editing, #Eagle-Eye-Editing, #correctuseofcommas