Trend Stetting 1: Grammar Gets an It Girl

Mia Lipman on August 16, 2011

This is a weird moment for English. Nobody edits the Internet, so the standard for publishable writing has fallen somewhere south of our ankles. Our attention spans have shrunk to 140 characters, and we can’t walk into an office without tripping over something horrible like “co-opetition.” And yet: This might just be my inner English major dreaming out loud, but it seems as if language geeks have gained a bit more cachet lately. (Case in point—I can wear a shirt that says “Bad Grammar Makes Me [Sic]” and get high-fived at parties.)

We even have our own it girl, a wise and cheery wordsmith known as Grammar Girl, with an adorably bookish avatar, an appropriately Fitzgeraldian real name (Mignon Fogarty), and an insanely popular podcast. She also pens a series of neat little books that explain the basics of our convoluted tongue in an approachable, funny way. The latest is 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, and even this longtime editor learned a few tricks from it.

With examples culled from prime time instead of archaic reference books—How I Met Your Mother and House get lots of play—Fogarty demystifies the terms that mix us up the most: affect vs. effect, sneaked vs. snuck, I vs. me. Her explanations are simple but not simplistic (see page 101 for a reminder of the difference), and a gentle dose of snark keeps them lively, as in this explanation of an oft-abused word: “A guy in a lime green leisure suit at a high school dance in the 1970s was normal. A guy in a lime green leisure suit at a high school dance today is ironic.”

Clocking in at 119 barely filled pages, 101 Misused Words is perfect for the grammar-minded and Twitter-minded alike. And given the 161,000+ followers who hang on every participle in @GrammarGirl’s feed, those groups seem to overlap more than ever these days. Can an edited Internet be far behind?

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