The Merry Grammarian

Chasing the Grammar Ghost

My sister gave me a fantastic present for my birthday last month: A T-shirt that says, “I hope I can still correct people’s grammar when I’m a ghost.”

I laughed, and then asked her where she found such a thing. As it turns out, grammar-related novelty items—T-shirts, mugs, joke books, hats, bookmarks, posters, pillows, even socks—are for sale all over the Internet. They’re funny and varied, from puns about punctuation to jokes like the one on my T-shirt.

The fact that there’s an entire cottage industry dedicated to grammar puns says something interesting: there are a lot of people out there who care about good grammar.

And it’s not just the obsessive amongst us. Studies show that people do actually judge us on our grammar skills—even if they aren’t necessarily good at grammar themselves.

Bad grammar in a cover letter or email can cost you job opportunity. Poor grammar in an op-ed piece or article can cost you your credibility. Query letters or manuscripts riddled with proofreading errors are likely to be red flags for agents and editors. Even a social media post with poor grammar will make people cringe.

Is it fair that people judge you for your grammar? Maybe not. But since the reality exists, why not take a few minutes to brush up on the grammar questions that you’re not certain about?

I find that pretty much everyone has a secret grammar question they want to ask, but are too embarrassed to do so. There’s a mentality out there that we were supposed to have mastered all the grammar rules by tenth grade or so, but the truth is, hardly any one knows all the rules. (Okay, maybe Strunk and White. But the rest of us mere mortals most certainly have a few gray areas). Instead of letting that grammar ghost haunt you, lay the issue to rest once and for all.

I’d like to invite you to send your grammar questions my way. From punctuation problems to commonly confused words (like that pesky affect and effect), send your queries via and I’ll get you squared away.

And I won’t tell a soul it came from you.