Archive for the ‘Grammar and usage’ Category

Quickly, off the top of your head: What’s the most powerful punctuation mark in the English language? If you chose the exclamation mark, you have a bright future in (bad)vertising. I learned this from my creative director: “If you’ve written something well enough, you don’t need exclamation points.” And also, “They’re the equivalent of shouting.” […]


About a month ago, I embarked on an ill-advised (and perhaps ill-fated) attempt to learn German. This is my report from the trenches. I have the short-term memory of a stoned gnat, so I knew that learning German would be a challenge. And because I am both impetuous and impatient, I decided to try the […]


There are few things I love more than an orthographic malfunction: With the loss of a single “r,” a book can instantly go from sexy to savage! My friend Tom (aka., The Blogfodder) reminded me of this fact today with a wonderful piece titled The Prince of Typos. Make that The Price of Typoes. Uh, […]


For the word nerd: a longish tear on Strunk & White. That’s all my friend/colleague Patrick wrote as an introduction yesterday, when he sent me a link to The Chronicle Review’s “50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice.” I read the pseudo-scholarly essay voraciously. Twice. And then I fired off a (more-or-less) carefully measured response. What […]


I’ve always felt a little bit inadequate because I don’t speak German. It’s a deep-seated complex, which began when I ran away with a mime troupe at age 16. Here I am, in all my white-faced glory. (Don’t worry—I’ve been in remission for years, and it’s not contagious.) Anyway … after spending almost a month […]


I’m glad I don’t have to come up with book titles for a living. Naming books is hard—it’s as much a science as an art. Imagine trying to sum up a book’s entire plot (or purpose) in just a few words. Maybe that’s why publishers are going back to that most beloved of Victorian conventions: […]


“With lots of lice, XO Heather” That’s the sweet sentiment my iPhone sent my friend Jim a couple of weeks ago, in its infinite autocorrect wisdom. (Because nothing says “love ya, buddy!” like the gift of lice.) And just yesterday my phone inserted “leper” into an email I was writing my sister. (Don’t worry, sis—I’m […]


A week ago I ran into a wonderful blog post that made me think about the words I most love—and hate. In some cases, there’s a reason why I love a particular word. I just love saying “mellifluous,” for example. And “sonsy.” Other times, my intense dislike for a word is inexplicably visceral. Just hearing […]


There are lots of blogs about writing out there, but Storytelling Nomad is among my favorites. Today, Katy posted a very small collection of the few words that I think could do with a bit more exposure, and those that, were they to crawl into a cave and die, would undoubtedly be doing the world […]