DBW Review: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Welcome to my first DBW Review! In this series, I will share some of the resources that have helped me develop my communication skills.

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better WritingI’ve talked about Grammar Girl in some of my previous posts. Her real name is Mignon Fogarty, and she started out producing short podcasts to help people understand language rules. She has a website called Quick and Dirty Tips, where she posts her podcasts as articles. Her site is one of my go-to sources for grammar information, and so I decided to pick up a book she wrote called Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

What I Liked

Fogarty’s writing style is consistent with her podcast voice: friendly, fun, and knowledgeable. She shares her tips on various grammar and writing challenges in an approachable way and never talks down to her audience.

Pronouns are words that stand in for nouns. They’re pros, like stuntmen. When Aardvark, Squiggly, and Grammar Girl are feeling overworked, they call in a pronoun. Because pronouns don’t get the same recognition as the big stars, they’re a little temperamental. It’s their way of getting even. (139)

She includes a broad range of topics in her book, from common grammar and usage issues to advice on writing style. My favourite section is called “Punch Up Your Punctuation,” where she goes through all of the essential elements of punctuation in detail. (In keeping with Grammar Girl style, the sections are named things like “Comma Comma Comma Comma Comma Chameleon” and “The Question Mark: Huh?”)

Fogarty uses a lot of great examples to illustrate her tips. Two cartoon characters called Aardvark and Squiggly entertain us with their antics while helping us learn. There is also a fantastic appendix called “Quick and Dirty Grammar at a Glance,” which summarizes the most important tips in five pages. (The book has other useful appendices as well, like lists of irregular verbs and subordinating conjunctions.)

What Could Be Better

I attempted to read this book from front to back, and got overwhelmed at the beginning with the large first chapter on usage (called “Dirty Words”). This chapter includes many small sections on word confusions like your vs. you’re and affect vs. effect. The later chapters on topics like capitalization and pronouns are more coherently presented and can be read straight through. I think the usage section is useful to consult when you need it, but it’s not something you are going to want to read like a chapter book.

The book is designed to cover many topics quickly, at a level that works for most audiences. One thing I missed was the in-depth background information that Grammar Girl provides in her podcasts. If you’re looking for a detailed explanation of why a certain rule exists, you won’t find it here. For that level of information, I would encourage you to go to her website. (She is also on Twitter as GrammarGirl.)

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Connection

Since this is Doorway Between Worlds, after all, I kept an eye out for any sci-fi or fantasy fun. Fogarty tells us on page 57 that she is a Star Trek fan. (She uses this show in some of her examples.) For those of you who may be wondering: her favourite series is Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed by Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Verdict

Grammar Girl was one of my big inspirations for starting my own blog, and I’m happy to see that her focus on fun in education is alive and well in this book. Whether you are a novice at grammar or an experienced writer who is struggling with a specific usage issue, this book has something for you. It’s a great summary resource of writing tips.

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Disclosure: I am not being compensated in any way for this review. Just in case you were wondering. 🙂

DBW Reviews is a new post series, and I welcome your feedback on whether this review was helpful for you. Please feel free to comment below. And if you have other great writing or grammar resources you’d like to share, please do!