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Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) 1st Edition

241 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805088311
ISBN-10: 0805088318
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Editorial Reviews Review

Are you a fool for mnemonics? If so, you'll fall head over nubucks for Mignon Fogarty--a.k.a. the Grammar Girl--and her handy new audio guide to writing and speaking well. It’s chock-full of smart little anecdotes and memory tricks for felling the most common grammatical foes (who can ever remember the difference between "nauseous" and "nauseated" anyway?) and at just an hour long it's the perfect turn-to resource for students and professionals alike. I didn't try too hard to stump Grammar Girl in our Q&A, but with her eagle eyes she spotted my grammatical (typographical?) misstep without missing a beat! --Anne Bartholomew

Questions for the Grammar Girl Now that we communicate so often via e-mail and text messaging, do you think that people have become more desensitized to poor grammar, or in your experience is awareness more heightened as a result?

Grammar Girl: The average person seems to have become more desensitized to poor grammar, but language lovers seem to be tormented by the flood of mutilated e-mail and text messages—at least a lot of the people I hear from seem to be tormented. It might be a self-selecting group. To use one of my father's favorite phrases, language lovers seem to feel as though they are "being pecked to death by a duck." Your weekly podcast helps millions of listeners use good grammar and write more effectively. Do you think there is more value in learning by listening, as compared to reading and practical exercise?

Grammar Girl: Perhaps it's ironic, but I have a hard time learning by just listening. I need to read things, which is one of the reasons why I provide full transcripts for all my audio podcasts on the Grammar Girl Web site. People learn in different ways, so those who want to listen can listen, and those who want to read can read.

In my experience, nothing beats practical exercise. I often have to look up grammar rules over and over again because I can't remember them, but once I've written a show about a rule, I always remember it. Have the grammar mnemonics you've developed come easily to you? Which ones were the toughest to capture in an easy-to-remember tip?

Grammar Girl: Some mnemonics come easily and some don't. I had a hard time coming up with a way for people to remember the difference between "its" and "it's," and I ended up using a really complicated story about a dream I had involving the eBay "it" advertising campaign.

I think the best mnemonics are the simple ones. Remembering that you should say "different from" instead of "different than" because "different" has two f's and "from" starts with an f isn't awfully creative, but it's easy to remember. Is there a grammar rule that even Grammar Girl finds it hard to remember?

Grammar Girl: There are so many that it's hard to pick just one! I have a notoriously terrible memory, which is why I'm always making up mnemonics.

Often I find that when I can't remember something it's because it is a style issue instead of a hard-and-fast rule, so different people do it differently and there is no "right" answer. For example, I always have to look up the rules about whether the verb should be singular or plural after collective nouns like "team" and phrases like "the couple" and "one of the people who."

But when I look up the rule for collective nouns, I am reminded that the "rule" is that you have to just decide whether your collective noun has a sense of being a group or a sense of being many individuals. (And then there are also differences between British and American English.)

It's even worse with a phrase like "one of the people who": experts are split over whether the verb should be singular or plural. There really isn't an answer; you just have to pick a side. I have a hard time making a mnemonic for something like that! It used to be that proper grammar and thoughtful wording were the defining factors of a good piece of writing. Increasingly, however, writing is prized for the speed with which it is produced and not necessarily the craft. How can conscientious writers find the happy medium between form and efficiency?

Grammar Girl: What, didn't I answer your questions fast enough?

But seriously, I don't think I've come in contact with the people who value speed. As a Web editor, I certainly wasn't happy when people turned in bad writing, even if they turned it in early. And when I was writing magazine articles or corporate materials for a living I never felt rushed (except when I waited too long to get started).

The places where I do feel a sense of urgency are in e-mail and messaging; people seem to expect immediate responses. But writing a high-quality message doesn't take much more time than writing a careless message; it just takes more focus. Bonus question: I wrote all these questions with no more than a cursory grammar and spelling check. How did I do?

Grammar Girl: I found only one major error, and I changed the text to bold. It looked like a typo rather than an error in your understanding of the rules. Good job!


“Reminds me of when I first read Strunk and White. I will use it in my classroom.” ―Fourth Grade Teacher, Las Vegas Public School System

“Whether you are a grammar-phobe seeking guidance, a parent looking for a tutorial that your kids will enjoy (and therefore use) or a writer seeking a fun reference manual for frustrating recurring questions, Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing will likely satisfy.” ―Bill Reagan, PopMatters

“Fogarty walks her listeners through the sometimes-tricky subjects with a voice that is authoritative but warm. Kind of like the sixth-grade teacher you wish you had.” ―USA Today on the Grammar Girl Podcast

“Delightfully droll . . . Grammar Girl gives clear explanations with helpful examples.” ―The Los Angeles Times on the Grammar Girl Podcast

“Fogarty . . . sparked what you might call a worldwide, syntax-driven fiesta.” ―Newsday on the Grammar Girl Podcast

“At the root of all her success, of course, is a true love of language and grammar.” ―The Arizona Republic on the Grammar Girl Podcast

“Fogarty . . . has become the country's go-to gal on grammar . . . Helpful. Smart. Funny. Fans find Grammar Girl to be all those things.” ―The Seattle Times on the Grammar Girl Podcast


Product Details

  • Series: Quick & Dirty Tips
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1 edition (July 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805088318
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805088311
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (241 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,882 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mignon Fogarty is the creator of Grammar Girl and founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips Network. A technical writer and entrepreneur, she has served as an editor and producer at a number of health and science Web sites. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. She lives in Reno, Nevada.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

139 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Ronald King on July 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
I didn't have expectations about this book from the podcast because I only discovered Grammar Girl a few days before the book was released. I like books about usage, and I enjoyed this one. It's organized in chapters of related usage problems and the rules for the most frequent cases. For many issues, the book gives not only the right way to do it, but demonstrates common wrong ways too, and clearly labels them so you won't pick up the wrong way if you're skimming. Many of the entries include memory devices to help you remember what to do next time.

The drawings and examples were cute, but sometimes the references to Squiggly and Aardvark felt like inside jokes, but fortunately not to the point where I felt like the joke was on me. I didn't know if there were personalities for the characters that would have given me a deeper understanding of the examples they demonstrated, or if they were just generic illustrations.

The voice is consistent, and the delivery is short and sweet, or as the author puts it, quick and dirty. Nothing is belabored that shouldn't be, but each issue is adequately covered for most situations. If an item is controversial, the book mentions the controversy and gives an overview of the major arguments. Matters of style are also identified, even if the author has a strong preference for a particular way.

The last chapter, "Work It," is an unusual chapter for a usage book, and especially valuable. It gives writer-oriented tips for interviewing people, generating ideas, fighting writer's block, and proofreading. Some of the tips it gives are excellent, and in the right situation, may make the difference between success and failure. I would love to see that chapter expanded into a book of its own.
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76 of 77 people found the following review helpful By K. L. Cummings on July 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
Who needs another book on grammar?

Well, to be candid, most of us. We all struggle with the usual problems like lie vs. lay, affect vs. effect, and where to insert commas. In terms of these basic grammar questions, Mignon delivers the goods. In the guise of Grammar Girl she provides simple, memorable lessons in ... well ... grammar.

The book is more than just a grammar guide. Go back and read the full title. Go ahead. I'll wait.

You see the part that says "For Better Writing"? That's the real meat of this book. Mignon isn't some dusty academic who wants to put you in your place and make you feel inferior when you misuse a semi-colon. She's a talented writer who wants to help you improve your writing. Tucked in among the tips are dozens of ways to make your writing stronger and more engaging. She even covers writing for blogs and Twitter.

Last century we had Strunk and White as guides. This century we have Mignon.
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83 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on October 30, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I rather liked the informal style of the book and found most of my queries were answered in an easy to understand manner. Having said that, the Kindle edition does not have a table of contents and the naming conventions used in the book make it difficult to find information quickly. If you're going to release an electronic version of a book whose purpose is to be used as a reference item, it should have a thorough table of contents, an index, and it should be organized in a manner so that specific information can be found quickly. I thought the sum content of the book was great, it just needs a little help with accessibility.

This review is reflective of Kindle edition of this book only.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on July 12, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is an unabridged audiobook rendition of Mignon Fogarty's excellent guide to improving one's grammar. Well-known for her award-winning podcast explaining some of the most common grammatical mistakes people make, Mignon Fogarty delivers the straight scoop on style, business writing examples, advice for crafting smooth prose, and even e-mail tips. Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is enthusiastically recommended for professional writers of all walks of life, from high school students crafting essays to college students working on Ph.Ds to prospective novel writers, nonfiction writers, journalists, newspaper columnists and much more. 5 CDs, 7 hours.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Lisa Shea HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
This book was created by a woman who runs an active podcast. That is, she is used to doing weekly little "tips" about how to handle a grammar situation. That's very cool in a quick-blurb world, but you can really see those roots in this book. There's no real coherence here, and if you pick the book up looking for help with a given situation you'll have to dig to find the answer. One chapter is called "I'm So Stylish". What is that about? Apparently it's about writing "I'm sooooooooooooo happy" and that not being good grammar. Would I have ever thought to look in that chapter for that information? Would I have ever really wondered if spelling so with 18 Os was correct?

The book is cute. If you read little snippets every day - perhaps as a "bathroom book" - you're sure to pick up some tips here. You learn about "that" vs "who". You learn about "like" vs "as". You might think a lot of these differences are minor. If you do a Google search you're sure to find people using every mis-spelling that exists, and breaking every grammar rule. However, it all comes down to being professional to your audience. If you continually mis-spell "existence" maybe 50% of your readers won't care - but the other 50% will be more and more turned off by your repeated mistakes.

If we want to communicate clearly, it certainly is in all of our best interest to learn the proper rules and to try our best to follow them. I'm sure we can all name awful websites we have been to where the grammar was so awful that we could not follow what the person was saying. There are of course different degrees of this problem - so the more clearly you can write, the better!

So in general I agree greatly with the premise. I think we should all learn to write more clearly.
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