As public relations pros, we often forget to refine our grammar in communication, and instead focus on mastering new pitching techniques or simply creating content.
Strong writing starts with grammar though, and reading “Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen,” by Mary Norris, is a painless, enjoyable way to review grammatical rules.
In her book, Norris–a former copy editor at the New Yorker–writes about her many years editing, while sprinkling in in actual grammar lessons and tying in short memoirs of her life. After reading the book, I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t reviewed some of the rules of grammar since learning them in junior high English!
Below are five of my favorite fun facts and rule reminders from the book:
- Danglers: the dangling participle. Everyone has written a sentence with a dangler, which can be fixed by changing the subject of the sentence to match the participle or giving the participle its own phrase
- “Who” does not change to “whom” just because it’s in the middle of a sentence
- Serial comma: the one before “and” in a series of three or more things
- The editors of Webster’s Third dictionary saved 80 pages by cutting down on commas
- Copy editors will never be replaced, unless spell-check learns to recognize context
Each chapter is as cleverly named like the book title, such as “Comma Comma Comma Chameleon” and “A Dash, a Semicolon, and a Colon Walk into a Bar.”
For not being a history-buff myself, I found myself interested in learning how the different pieces of language came to be.
As the New York Times book review says, copy editors’ “obsessions, typographical and otherwise, make hilarious reading.” I would have to agree! Part linguistics, part grammar, part history and part memoir, Norris will captivate you with her book.
Hanna Porterfield is the Newsletter Co-Chair of PRSA’s New Professionals section and an Assistant Account Executive at Development Counsellors International. She graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 and is actively involved in the alumni club’s New York chapter. Connect with Hanna on LinkedIn and Twitter (@citygirlhanna).