Tuesday, December 16, 2008

5Q: Grammar Girl by Mignon Fogarty

In the world of text speak and emoticons, many think grammar is a thing of the past.

Not so, says this week's guest, Grammar Girl's author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Grammar is still key to clear communication, as we hopefully see below.

Mignon Fogarty is an accomplished grammarian, book author, and podcast network founder.

1) Is "whom" really doomed?
Grammar Girl: People certainly exist who think “whom” should die a fast death. They'll argue that nobody knows how to use it anyway, so there's no point continuing to insist that they try to learn. To me, this smacks of the tyranny of low expectations. I still fight for “whom.” It's not as if it's that hard to learn the rule. Use “whom” when you're referring to the object of a sentence. If you can hypothetically answer the question with “him,” use “whom.” If we drop “whom,” what's next? “Lay”? “Set”? I tend to believe in people. I think they can get it right if they try.

2) Students' writing seems so bad today. Am I just old, or has something changed?
Grammar Girl: People have told me there was a trend in education in the '70s that got away from teaching the fundamentals of writing and instead focused on getting students to read. The assumption was that if students read a lot, they would absorb good writing skills. What seems even worse to me is that sometimes each student was encouraged to pick a book he or she though was interesting, so teachers would have every student in their class reading a different book. I don't know how a teacher would teach anything under those circumstances!

I hear that the trend is moving back toward teaching the fundamentals, but I also hear that young teachers who went through school in the '70s are struggling to teach grammar because they were never taught it themselves.

I'm sure this isn't the case in every school and with every teacher, but I'm willing to bet it's part of the problem you're seeing with students' writing today.

3) As "video killed the radio star," did new media kill the grammar star?
Grammar Girl: Gosh, I'd say that new media created the grammar star. Without new media, I would never have been able to make the kind of career I have teaching grammar.

Some people do think that new media such as text messaging is killing grammar because people are so tempted to use abbreviations such as “l8” and “u,” and those habits can spill over into other kinds of writing; but I tend to believe these are just new ways to play with language, and as long as people understand the difference between a text message and an annual report, we're going to be OK.

4) What made you decide to write the book?
Grammar Girl: Writing a book seemed like the obvious next step after my podcast became popular. Listeners were asking me to write a book, and publishers were approaching me about writing a book. It was a great experience. Although I enjoy producing my podcast every week and giving talks to organizations, there's something different and wonderful about having a physical thing you created to hold in your hands.

One of the best parts of creating the book was being able to see the characters I use in my podcast (Squiggly, a yellow snail, and Aardvark, a blue aardvark) come to life in the illustrations.
5) What makes your book a perfect gift idea?
Grammar Girl: It's inexpensive, entertaining on the first read, and useful as a reference book for years to come.
Links:
As a former copy editor, I am impressed. A fan of "whom" and skilled user of the semicolon!

And I offer a special thanks to Fogarty for answering these questions at the last minute due to the fact that the holidays subsumed other volunteers!

The book makes a great holiday gift. If you order by Thursday, December, 18, 2008, you can get a personally autographed copy of the book for $19! To get this great holiday gift, see instructions here. In fact, it's worth checking out the site simply for the humor about gift wrapping.

If you're not into the personal touch (or you missed the deadline), order the book at Amazon.com.

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1 Comments:

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