Grammar Girl: The Face Behind the Avatar

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Grammar Girl says correcting someone's grammar is, well - rude.

Mignon Fogarty, a.k.a. Grammar Girl, is a magazine writer, technical writer, and entrepreneur and has served as senior editor and producer at a number of health and science websites. Fogarty has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. She believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study.

Her website,, was named to Writer’s Digest’s 2015 101 Best Websites for Writers, and her podcast has won numerous awards including The Telegraph’s 2014 Best Arts, Books, and Entertainment Podcasts as well as iTunes’s 2013 Best Classic Podcast. Grammar Girl has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in The New York Times, USA Today,BusinessWeek,, Reader’s Digest, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal.

Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. She strives to be a friendly guide in the writing world. Her archenemy is the evil Grammar Maven, who inspires terror in the untrained and is neither friendly nor helpful.

In this interview with Sidebar, Fogarty talks about her trailblazing podcast and grammar trends today.

Signature: How did you get the idea for Grammar Girl?

Fogarty: It started as a hobby. As a freelance editor, I noticed that my clients were making the same grammar mistakes over and over. I love new technology, and in 2007, I started experimenting with podcasting. I thought, "Maybe there are some people who would appreciate a grammar tip each week.” Six weeks after launching the podcast, it was #2 on iTunes podcast list. It was crazy and amazing. I thought, "This can’t last,” but it did. Within in six months, I signed a book deal. It took over my life.

Signature: What is your grammar pet peeve?

Fogarty: Today, people make assumptions about what’s right and wrong — when they are, in fact, wrong. People learn something wrong, and then they correct other people with grammatical misinformation.

Signature: Has the rising popularity of social media affected our grammar?

Three studies from Andrea Lunsford at Stanford have shown that our grammar has not gotten worse over the years, although the types of errors have changed.

News organizations have laid off copy editors, and nimble website organizations don’t have as many editors. So I don’t think our skills are declining, but the number of grammar experts employed in the publishing field is declining.

Signature: Is it hard not to correct people’s grammar when they are talking to you?

Fogarty: I never correct people. It’s rude, and it’s an affront. Plus, it would embarrass people, and that would make them unlikely to embrace your correction anyway.

It’s better to model good speaking and writing and hope that people are in the right mindset to notice.

Don’t miss Mignon Fogarty’s presentation on Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 9:00 a.m., at the Association Media & Publishing Annual Meeting. Make plans to join us today!

Carla Kalogeridis is editorial director of Association Media & Publishing.

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