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Profile of a Logophile

(Photo: Randy Hoffman)

Charles Harrington Elster is a writer, broadcaster, and logophile — a lover of words.

His books include Tooth and Nail and Test of Time, vocabulary-building novels for high school students preparing to take the college entrance exams; There’s a Word for It, a lighthearted look at unusual — and unusually useful — words; What in the Word? a salmagundi of word lore and wordplay in a question-and-answer format; The Accidents of Style: Good Advice on How Not to Write Badly; and The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations, which the late William Safire of The New York Times hailed as "the best survey of the spoken field in years."

Charlie is also the author of the popular vocabulary-building program Verbal Advantage and the narrator of the audio version (for which he has not received royalties in more than ten years because the publisher reneged on the contract, so please buy the book instead).

In October 2018 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published Charlie's latest popular reference book, How to Tell Fate from Destiny and Other Skillful Word Distinctions. An audiobook version, narrated by Charlie, was concurrently released by HighBridge, an imprint of Recorded Books. Charlie's previous book, Word Workout, published by St. Martin's Griffin, is a vocabulary-building companion to Verbal Advantage, with an entirely different set of keywords and even more information on synonyms, antonyms, pronunciation, and usage. Word Workout is also available as an audiobook, narrated by Charlie. 

Charlie was a consultant for Garner's Modern American Usage (now titled Garner's Modern English Usage) and an orthoepist for, and he is the pronunciation editor of Black's Law Dictionary. He has several times been a guest "On Language" columnist for The New York Times Magazine, and his articles have appeared in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Copyediting, Verbatim, and other publications.

Charlie has been talking about language on the radio since 1985. He has been interviewed on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, Weekend Edition, and All Things Considered and been a guest on hundreds of radio shows around the country. He is currently a monthly guest on the Mandy Connell Show on 850 KOA-AM Denver (please check the Events page for more details).

In 1998 he cofounded A Way with Words, a weekly public radio talk show on language, and cohosted it until 2004. Charlie is also a voice talent with 30 years of audio narration experience.

Charlie was born in Queens, New York, in 1957 and was educated in the New York City public schools, at Buxton School in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and at Yale, where he earned a B.A. cum laude in 1981. He lives in San Diego, California.

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Copyright © 2018 by Charles Harrington Elster.
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Charlie at work in his home office in San Diego, on an ancient computer he long ago recycled.