Charles Harrington Elster


What in the Word? Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to Your Peskiest Questions About Language.
"The Wordbook of the Year!"
Sol Steinmetz

Test of Time: A Novel Approach to the SAT and ACT. The challenging companion to Tooth and Nail, with more than 2,000 test words.

Tooth and Nail: A Novel Approach to the SAT. More than 250,000 copies sold!

Verbal Advantage is a comprehensive, graduated vocabulary-building program for adults.

"The most readable, sensible and prescriptive guide to the words that trip us up." William Safire

A lighthearted guide to some of the English language's most unusual (and unusually useful) words.

Upcoming Events

If you'd like to book me for an interview or invite me to speak, you can contact me by clicking on WRITE TO CHARLIE under "Quick Links" (in the righthand sidebar below).


Charlie is now appearing monthly as a guest language maven on the Mandy Connell Show on KOA Denver 850 AM.

You can hear him every third Thursday of the month for an hour beginning at 2:00 p.m. Pacific time, 3:00 p.m. Mountain time, 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Here's the schedule for 2018:

January 18, 2018
February 15, 2018
March 15, 2018
April 19, 2018
May 17, 2018
June 21, 2018
July 19, 2018
August 16, 2018
September 20, 2018
October 18, 2018
November 15, 2018
December 20, 2018

You can hear the show streaming live or listen to a podcast later at


Nothing scheduled at this time.

Charlie at the 2011 TwainFest in Old Town San Diego.
Photo by Carmen Veronica Elster.

Selected Works

Colin Kaepernick and Charles Harrington Elster have something in common: exercising their First Amendment rights.
In the cover story for the October-November 2013 issue of Copyediting, Charlie looks at how the relative pronoun who is taking over the traditional role of that and which.
Read Charlie's amiable rant on redundancy, which appeared in the August-September 2012 issue of Copyediting.
Timeless tips for aspiring vocabulary builders.
Charlie beats up on Merriam-Webster in the Boston Globe.
At a loss for words? Read one of Charlie's guest "On Language" columns for The New York Times Magazine.
Read Charlie's guest "On Language" piece about resistentialism.
Shopping for a new dictionary? Here's some sage advice.
Charlie's brave new words for a wireless world.
Read one of Charlie's articles in SPELL/Binder.
Read a profile of Charlie in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles.
Charlie explains why he left the public radio show.