5 (Fun) Books to Instantly Improve Your Grammar

Happy Proofreading Day! Go thank an editor, and ensure your participles aren't dangling. Since reading dry grammar textbooks doesn't = much fun for even the biggest of grammar nerds, we've got five playful, witty books for you that'll instantly improve your grammar. I promise they're all just a little more fun to read than The Elements of Style!

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‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’- The Little Book That Could

When Lynne Truss began to write Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The No-Nonsense Approach to Punctuation, she probably didn’t expect it to become such a best seller. “Certainly I didn’t,” she tells The Guardian. “My last novel sold poorly (and I’d received a large advance), which made me poison as far as another publishing contract was concerned.”



The journey started back in the early 2000s. Truss was working freelance after writing about sports and television for The Times in the 90s, leaving in the aftermath of her sister’s death. Andrew Franklin of Profile Books approached her at a party, where they discussed whether she thought she could write a book on punctuation. She told him, “honestly, no, there were several fine books on punctuation already, and I wasn’t an expert.” But Franklin persisted, and a year later, the two would be at the same party with Eats, Shoots and Leaves, not only published but a number one bestseller.


Image Courtesy of Amazon


Lynne Truss chalks the way the book was written up to timing. Being forty seven meant that she had read a lot of books. She knew about how Emily Dickinson loved dashes, how Nicholson Baker felt about semi-colons, and that James Thurber wrote about commas. Her background in editing also helped, giving her a “practical understanding of the subject, and a romantic attitude to print.”



Lynne Truss Quote

                                                                                                         Image courtesy of


Once she had the book published, Lynne Truss and those around her did not expect much to come of it. A journalist friend warned her that it would be torn apart, while her mother advised her to say the book was “FOR THE SELECT FEW.” But, Eats, Shoots and Leaves was a hit. By Christmas, it sold 570,000 copies. All in all, Lynne Truss sold three million books.

On her success, Truss says this: “Luckily I was old enough – and jaded enough – not to take any of the experience as either normal or deserved. It was a fantasy version of publication. But it happened, and now I’ve got a nice house to sit in and write comic crime novels, so I’m not complaining.”

 Featured image courtesy of The guardian

Major Oxford Comma Controversy

Iconic author of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman, has weighed in on the new design for Britain’s post-Brexit 50p coin (pictured above). Sure, it’s not the font I would use, but it’s a nice… wait a second.

Image via Twitter

You all know how strongly I feel about the Oxford comma. It should be there. It should always, always be there. And apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Philip Pullman has authored seven best sellers, is ranked one of the best British authors of the past fifty years, and has an actual knighthood. I’m in good company.


Now I’m not sure how boycotting 50p would work, practically, but no one ever uses 50c coins, so it is possible.

I’m not getting over it. It’s a list! It may not be the eggs, toast, and orange juice problem, but it’s still a list, so it’s still wrong.

Image result for oxford comma toast and orange juice
Image via Verbicide

And I honestly, honestly wish that I thought this was deliberate. But I don’t. Until some memos are released saying they talked about this, I’m offended, and I’m bothered. Why put such a long slogan at all? Just say something about unity. Or use Latin. Latin, periods between each word. Or go classic, motto style. Peace our goal est.


It’s not the first time Pullman has tweeted something controversial about British culture and politics. I might be the only one who’s jumped on this one this way,

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Featured image via Yahoo News UK

Writers Confess Phrases They Overuse

John Boyne, legendary author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, tweeted today asking other writers if they’ve wrestled with phrases they overuse, and if so, what they are:


Are there writers who find themselves using the same lame phrases over and over & having to cut them? I'm terrible for "he hesitated for a moment, then looked away" & I've realised that my characters spend so much time shrugging that it's like their shoulders are on springs *crying laughing emoji*


If you’ve done any volume of writing, you can probably relate. Beyond a signature style, authors sometimes have words they use more often, or in this case, concepts and sentence pieces. A surprising number of them have to do with actions the characters are taking. The tweet got an enormous number of responses, causing the topic to trend on twitter. The whole thing gives the impression of characters doing things without the authors’ permission.



And I mean… they probably shouldn’t. But whether they’re blinking might not always be relevant. And she’s not the only one whose characters have gotten a little unruly.



Why won’t these characters hold still? Don’t they know what medium they’re in?



It isn’t always character wrangling, though. Sometimes the words won’t work. Or sometimes there are just too many of them.



Paraphrasing yourself is a lovely new take on the self drag. Though the original tweet’s tone was of amused annoyance, in some cases it devolved into actual advice, as though THAT’s going to change anything.



I mean, sure, you’re probably right, but sometimes a person’s gotta shrug. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Only when the moment’s right, I guess.



Featured image via ZDNet 

Grammar Table Brings Grammar to the Streets

Ellen Jovin started Grammar Table on more or less of a whim on September 21st, 2018, in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The idea was simple: sit in a public space with a sign that encourages passersby to ask her questions related to grammar and language. To her surprise, the questions came flooding in.


Image via the buffalo news


Jovin is well qualified for the role. She is a founder of Syntaxis, a communication skills training consultancy, and the creator of a language-learning website called Words & Worlds of New York. She also has a B.A. from Harvard in German studies and an M.A. in comparative literature from UCLA.



“I bring to this undertaking a sense of grammar humility,” Jovin told The Buffalo News. “Too many people think they know everything and they freely dispense bad advice in a condescending way.”

Jovin wants to reclaim the trope of the stuffy, overcritical grammarian. Proper grammar isn’t always as ironclad as it may seem. There are legitimate conversations to be had about the use of an em dash in contrast to a semicolon, the use of the pronoun ‘whom,’ or the integrity of an Oxford comma. Language changes from generation to generation, and we need grammarians like Ellen Jovin to guide us down a path that will allow us to communicate our ideas effectively and beautifully.


Ms. Jovin meets fellow wordnik Marcelle Rand, who has an Instagram feed called "Copy Wronged."

Image via NYTimes


Jovin has recently embarked on a Grammar Table tour across the US, and we can also expect a documentary and book coming from her in the future!


Featured Image Via: Grammar Table