We're going to be interviewing Grammar Girl prior to being mentioned in her podcast. This might be happening really soon. So we need some interview questions. The top-voted questions will be asked, unless I really dislike the question, in which case, too bad, you should have volunteered to be the go-between (Just kidding, I know we all always ask good questions here).

So, what shall it be? I'm not sure what kind of topics we should discuss besides the obvious grammar/writing/English tips. Maybe some of you have a favourite EL&U question you'd like her to comment on? Go nuts! The more questions the better. Ask early, ask often.

(This is a bit like reverse Jeopardy: You have to put all your questions in the form of an answer. I know, I know.)

Edit: 2011-10-11 Today at around 10pm (GMT-4) I will be taking these questions and massaging them together to send to Grammar Girl. So last chance! Remember, you can ask more than one question.


10 Answers 10


Is it ever worth the time and effort to correct someone else's grating grammatical mistakes?

Or other top voted grammar questions.

  • 2
    I really like the idea of having her answer these questions - maybe then we could convince her to come post the answers, or at least get her permission to do so on her behalf. Also the blog post could link to specific questions, which would help a lot!
    – Lauren
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 20:35
  • I just want to note that some of the grammar questions already have great answers—if we do ask her to answer one or two of these, we should pick from either the ones that are more subjective or the ones that have mediocre answers.
    – waiwai933
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 1:50
  • @waiwai933 That would be best but I don't necessarily see a problem: we want to ask the best questions. Even if they already have great answers, how would this grammar expert reply?
    – Hugo
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 7:20
  • My only concern is that so many questions tagged "grammar" are not really about grammar. Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 2:16
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 True, and we don't need to ask those. On the other hand, her Quick and Dirty Tips blog isn't just about grammar: the categories are: General | Grammar | Punctuation | Word Choice | Style.
    – Hugo
    Commented Oct 19, 2011 at 12:43

A lot of your columns and articles cite various authorities, like Garner's Modern American Usage, American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style, and (thankfully) Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage. For example, in your article about the word class of than, you explain the prescriptivist objections to than as a preposition, but also provide some arguments in its favor, citing authorities on both sides. In contrast, I answered a related question on this site using two different corpora to show that than-as-a-preposition is in fact more common than than-as-a-conjunction (before pronouns at the ends of sentences at least), and the disparity in usage has been growing quickly over the past couple decades.

Have you considered using corpus-based approaches to answering questions of grammar? On the one hand, corpus-based approaches have the benefit of bringing cold, hard facts to the table in a kind of argument that has traditionally relied on persuasion using logic and appeals to authority. On the other hand, the authority of these kinds of facts might be a hard sell to your readership. The argument that "just because everyone says it that way doesn't make it correct", though specious, is, sadly, quite common.


On a note somewhat related to the question about gyrl, how about, What do you think of gender-neutral pronouns? I am used to areas where they are used commonly, even of and by cissexual people whose gender is unambiguous. And I have used them in that light here at Stack Exchange, as, for example, in a question on Stack Overflow. However, when I later used them the same way on the beta Christianity site, all kinds of unpleasantness broke out.

Personally, I prefer the zie/zir set (mainly because they're the ones I see used most often), but there are others. A supplementary question, then, could be, Which set of gender-neutral pronouns do you prefer?

  • 4
    I like that Christianity.Stackexchange exists. However, it is rather easy for all kinds of unpleasentness to break out there, sad to say. I'm afraid that site just naturally calls out to intolerant opinionated people.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 13:20
  • 3
    Christianity or not, weird neologisms are not likely to be accepted by any community.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 20:59
  • "Zie"?? Sounds like a German trying to say "the". "Thon" for the win!!!
    – Jez
    Commented Oct 12, 2011 at 13:18
  • Looking at that thread, it appears that the unpleasantness was not just because the words were used, but that when someone edited to remove the strange words and make it understandable, the edits were rolled back, etc. Commented Oct 13, 2011 at 4:15
  • @T.E.D. How about now? And compared to MSE and especially in light of the new CoC?
    – user39425
    Commented Oct 13, 2019 at 19:06
  • 1
    @fredsbend - Haven't checked it out recently, so I probably shouldn't comment. It did seem like rather a lot of the recent CoC protests and support for a moderator who flatly refused to use another person's pronouns came from certain sites though...
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 14, 2019 at 1:32

In chat, the question "Why did you choose girl instead of woman or the feminism-empowered gyrl? Your insistence on alliteration degrades women everywhere." was humorously proposed.

Some of the suggested alternatives that preserved alliteration were:

  • Word Woman
  • Grrmmrr Grrl
  • Lady Linguistics
  • Ms Morphology
  • 4
    +1 for Ms. Morphology and Lady Linguistics, both of which made me laugh. Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 17:57
  • 1
    She actually already commented on that in this article: "TV packed with 'girls' this season." But that doesn't mean we can't ask her! Might be interested to have her expand.
    – Lauren
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 18:59
  • @JSBᾶngs - Didn't that used to be a Saturday Morning kids show back in the 70's? :-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electra_Woman_and_Dyna_Girl
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Oct 7, 2011 at 13:16
  • 3
    "Gyrl" is feminism-empowered? Has the wyrld gone wyld? Or ys yt just the gyrls?
    – Robusto
    Commented Oct 8, 2011 at 1:14

What's the most interesting topic you've tackled lately—the one that was the most thought-provoking, surprising, or fun for you? (Aptronyms? Needs washed? Photo captions?)

On the other hand, what question are you sick of hearing? (Do you wish everyone could memorize affect and effect? Do you secretly not care one way or the other about the Oxford comma?)


What's your favourite bit of punctuation and why?


How do you come up with ideas for podcasts/posts?


What grammar rule does she believe in so firmly she'd get it tattooed on her body?


The reason why English language does not have male and female words?

  • Can you expand on this question? Do you mean, why don't English nouns have gender, the way they do in French and other languages? Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 17:21
  • Yes, like that. Commented Oct 11, 2011 at 19:00

What grammar-related question(s) do you get most frequently from your listeners?

  • I don't see as particularly significant e.g. her opinion of whether to correct peoples' grammar; I have plenty of opinions of my own. I ask this because I'm interested in things that she is in a position to know or have experienced that I am not. Basically I'm interested in hearing about her listeners and experiences more than herself. Commented Oct 18, 2011 at 16:01

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