BOOK NOTES: New Everyman’s Guide Brings Venerable U.S. Constitution Resolutely into the 21st Century

By David M. Kinchen

If the U.S Constitution were written today, it would have pretty much the same content as the original but would look different, be organized differently, and would be considerably easier to understand. When beyond prolific (he's a one-man writing factory!) author Philip A. Yaffe decided to write an everyman’s guide to the Constitution, he conducted an internet search to find such a document as a good place to start. Surprise, there wasn’t one!

“I put in every combination of search words imaginable into several internet search engines and kept coming up empty. I couldn’t believe that no one had ever done such an update of the Constitution, so I decided to do it myself.”

BOOK NOTES: New Everyman’s Guide Brings Venerable U.S. Constitution Resolutely into the 21st Century

This seemingly one-of-a-kind updated Constitution is a key section in the author’s new Kindle e-book   "The U.S. Constitution: The Essential Ten Percent" (Amazon Digital Services Inc., print length 201 pages, file size 587 KB, $6.40). 

“One of the things that make reading and understanding the Constitution somewhat difficult, aside from its rather archaic language, is that it is never updated. Whenever changes are made, they appear in a list of amendments at the end of the document, not in the body. Thus, if you go through it from start to finish, you will read certain things you will discover only at the end that are no longer valid,” Mr. Yaffe explains.

The Updated Constitution excludes all text deleted by amendments from the original Constitution and all text rendered invalid by legislation, historical events, or other factors. The list of amendments, of which there are 27, has been entirely integrated.

For easier reading, most of the archaic phraseology, punctuation, and word capitalizations used in the original Constitution have been updated to modern standards. For easier understanding, the Updated Constitution is also somewhat reformatted. In particular, there is a new section called “The Rights and Freedoms of the People.”

“There is a misconception that the Bill of Rights, the collective name of the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, spells out all the rights and freedoms of the people. However, other rights and freedoms are also in the Constitution, either in the original body or in later amendments. This section brings all the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution into a single place, for better understanding and for easy reference,” Mr. Yaffe says.

A second key chapter of the e-book is a line-by-line analysis of the original Constitution, both body and amendments. Here, in layman’s language Mr. Yaffe explains crucial philosophical and historical pressures that shaped the Constitution, starting from the original document through to the last of the 27 amendments, which was adopted into the Constitution in 1992, some two centuries after it was originally proposed.

Other chapters in the book include:

•       Misconceptions about the Constitution

•       Quotations about the Constitution

•       Jokes about the Constitution

•       Failed Constitutional Amendments

•       The Declaration of Independence

•       The Articles of Confederation

•       The Gettysburg Address


There is also a short essay titled “Would the United States of America Be

a Valid Model for a Future United States of Europe?”

“I have been living in Brussels, Belgium, since 1974. Every time a U.S. general election rolls around, I get questions about how Americans elect their president and vice president, and why the election system is so complicated and bizarre. Each time I explain as best I can. Then during the 2012 election, the thought occurred to me that if the current European Union ever evolves into a true United States of Europe, its political structure and election system will probably be quite similar to that of the United States.

“Europe and the U.S. of course are dramatically different in terms of their histories and cultures. Nevertheless, the parallels between the United States of America and a future United States of Europe are striking,” Mr. Yaffe points out.

“In short,"The U.S. Constitution: The Essential Ten Percent" is not a substitute for more extensive books on the subject. Rather, it is a kind of prequel. Its objective is to make reading these other books easier and more fruitful,” he concludes.

Philip A. Yaffe
Philip A. Yaffe

About the author

Philip A. Yaffe was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1942 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he graduated from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) with a degree in mathematics and physics. In his senior year, he was also editor-in-chief of the Daily Bruin, UCLA’s daily student newspaper.

He has more than 40 years of experience in journalism and international marketing communication. At various points in his career, he has been a teacher of journalism, a reporter/feature writer with The Wall Street Journal, an account executive with a major international press relations agency, European marketing communication director with two major international companies, and a founding partner of a specialized marketing communication agency in Brussels, Belgium, where he has lived since 1974.

Books by Yaffe:


•       The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional


•       The Gettysburg Collection: A comprehensive companion to The Gettysburg Approach to Writing & Speaking like a Professional


•       Actual English: English grammar as native speakers really use it


•       Gentle French: French grammar as native speakers really use it


•       What’d You Say? / Que Dites-Vous? Fun with homophones, proverbs, expressions, false friends, and other linguistic oddities in English and French


•       The Little Book of BIG Mistakes


•       Myths and Misconceptions: Things We Know that Just Aren’t So


•       Extraordinary Ordinary Things


•       One-line Wonders: Humor in the Fast Lane


•       The Eighth Decade: Reflections on a Life


Books in “Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists” Series


(at February 2014)



•       Astronomy & Cosmology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists


•       Human Biology: Major Achievements of Lesser-known Scientists


Books in “The Essential Ten Percent” Series


(at February 2014)


•       College-level Writing: The Essential Ten Percent


•       Human Psychology: The Essential Ten Percent


•       Logical Thinking: The Essential Ten Percent


•       Public Speaking: The Essential Ten Percent


•       The Human Body: The Essential Ten Percent


•       The U.S. Constitution: The Essential Ten Percent


•       Wise Humor: The Essential Ten Percent


•       Word for Windows: The Essential Ten Percent

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