Usage: Doing it right

Recently — and this is not the first time this has happened — I wrote something along the lines of “do it right” and  someone “corrected” the word “right” to the word “correctly.” Apparently some people somewhere are laboring under the idea that “right” in the sense of “correct” can only be an an adjective….

Let’s stop perpetuating grammar myths

I’ll admit, I’m an easy target for “grammar mistakes you need to stop making” lists, but they’re starting to get on my nerves. The latest one I saw — 15 Common Grammatical Errors That Drive You Completely Insane (on Buzzfeed, of course) — started strong, with “your/you’re” and subject-verb disagreement. But then, at No. 3, was…

Comings and goings, bringings and takings

Speaking of bring / brought / brought, people often get confused about when to use “bring” and when to use “take.” Some people use the two words interchangeably, but they aren’t interchangeable, or they aren’t if you are trying to communicate clearly. “Bring” vs. “take” is easier to understand if it’s compared with “come” and…

Why does English … ? Just because

As a child, I hated the answer “Because” when I asked the question “Why?” It’s a non-answer answer that imparts no information and implies that the matter is closed. As an adult, I teach editing and writing, and work individually with students who need help in both. They have lots of questions — good questions…

Who gets to decide how language is used?

Recently during a discussion about standard English, usage manuals and stylebooks, I was asked, “Who gets to decide?” My answer was, “We all do.” As users of the language, we are the ones who ultimately determine the direction of our language: the fate of words old and new, changes in meanings, and addition or subtraction…

Good grammar helps you professionally – and romantically

One semester when I was teaching a media-writing course, I handed a quiz back and one of the students blurted out, with a mix of exasperation and fear, “I didn’t know grammar counted.” I replied, of course it counts, because if you are going to write for a living, your writing needs to look professional. Since…

The Grammar Pep Squad

I hear people all the time refer to the “Grammar Police,” or, even worse, “Grammar Nazis.” (As an aside, can we all please quit referring to anyone other than Nazis as “Nazis” — real Nazis were far more heinous than any politician, pedant or petty bureaucrat.) And while I’ve made a living as an editor…

Welcome to Madam Grammar!

I’ve started this blog to have a place to put stuff too big for Twitter and too opinionated, tangential or snarky for my official work website. You can read the “About” page to see more about me. My goal for this blog is to have a place to share thoughts and tips about grammar, language,…