Rinse the herbs far enough ahead of time for them to dry fully, or use a paper towel to pat them dry. Otherwise, they will stick to the knife. Remove the leaves and discard the thick stems (or reserve for adding to the stockpot). Then, keeping fingers safely clear, chop the leaves with a good-sized chef's knife, holding down the knife tip with one hand so that it never leaves the cutting board and moving your chopping wrist and hand rhythmically. Gather the herbs repeatedly into smaller and tighter clumps and chop until they are as fine as you want them. As a rule, herbs are finely chopped. A pair of kitchen shears or a mezzaluna also comes in handy for mincing.
Some recipes call for cutting herbs or other leafy ingredients, such as lettuce, into chiffonade (shown at right). First remove and discard the stems, then stack 3 to 5 leaves on top of each other on a cutting board. Gently but firmly roll the leaves into a cylinder and grasp it securely with one hand. Using a sharp knife, carefully cut the rolled leaves crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals to make thin strips.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion: The A to Z Guide to Everyday Cooking, Equipment and Ingredients (Time-Life Books, 2000)