Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Deadly G-Word: Some Grammar Helps

Ever notice that "comma" and "coma" are remarkably similar in spelling?

Seems appropriate when I remember those sleepy junior high lectures on how to diagram a sentence.

Commas have long been my nemesis.

Apparently I'm not alone. I asked some of my Alleymates if they have a grammar foibles.

"Commas. Yep. Bleh." Three of us mentioned this as a struggling point.

"For me its italics."

"It's or its. Grammar check STILL corrects me on this one."

"Loose versus lose. I mess this one up all the time!"

"I always mess up lie and lay, commas, and whether to  put periods or commas inside or outside of quotation marks. Man, editors are going to hate me! :)"

Whatever your grammar struggle, you are not alone.

Grammar is so crucial though. Simple errors make us look unprofessional. Leading to rejections. Frustration.

How can we brush up on our grammar? I would like to present some websites and resources that have helped me along the way in hopes they might help someone else.

Richard Lederer's Verbivore site. I suggest clicking on the language links tab for loads of great websites to check out on just about every topic imaginable.

I bought The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation at the recommendation of someone on the ACFW loop. Its a very helpful reference, but I wish I had known you can click here and look at it online for free instead. There are tons of quizzes on this site which will help you better understand what you most need to know.

Here's a fun game for us commaphobes: test your comma IQ. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynn Truss is a helpful book for those who struggle with punctuation problems. Truss also has a picture book version for kids that is a fun read.

Guide to Grammar & Writing is filled with specific helps for a variety of issues. From run-ons to subject agreement, this directory is concise.

Strunk & White Come on, you didn't think I would write a grammar linky guide without including an online version of this all-time classic. Short and sweet, you probably still have a copy of this at home from your freshman year of college.

Consider taking a community college course. Many times you can audit these courses for a very low price, even free. It may be the answer to solving some of your grammar woes.

Find a grammar pal. It helps to surround yourself with those who are better than you at any skill and writing is no different.

How about you? Do you have a "grammar nemesis"? Have you found any resources that have helped you?

 Julia enjoys writing women's fiction whenever she can find a chair free of smushed peanut butter sandwiches and lego blocks. She is a wife and homeschooling mama of two littles. She also currently reviews for The Title Trakk.


Unknown said...

Richard Lederer's language links tab is great!

I'm a not a native English speaker and I use this as an excuse for my lousy grammar. Grammar really confuses me. Sometimes it's apparently ok to break the rules and sometimes it isn't. So when every other excuse fails, then I just claim my mistakes are a spur of creative ingenuity. And yes, as a result I'm also afraid to show my work to a real editor:)

One book about grammar that I really like and isn't on the list is Roy Peter Clarck's 'Glamour of Grammar'. The book doesn't have chapters that are filled with endless lits of restrictions and regulations, instead it shows how grammar is a tool that can improve your writing.

Unknown said...

Oeps, I just checked the book I mentioned the comment above and the correct author and title are: Roy Peter Clark and The Glamour of Grammar.

Julia M. Reffner said...


Thanks for the recommend. I've heard of this book, but haven't read it.

I agree with you, grammar can be confusing. I'm sure that is more challenging since English is not your first language. Kudos to you for accepting that challenge and wanting to learn more. I'm sure it will reap rewards for you in the long run.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

I have Grammar Girl's book and the Shrunk & White book. I am still not great at grammar, but I have to say, I love Word and the green lines!!!

Lindsay Harrel said...

Is it bad to admit I get giddy about grammar?

Not surprising, given that I'm an editor in my day job.

I love Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. The picture book IS awesome.

Also, Grammar Girl has a pretty good website with some quick tips:


Julia M. Reffner said...


I'll have to read that one. I've heard about it and done some perusing on the site but have to admit I hesitated to recommend it because of the title.


That is wonderful and probably one of the reasons why you make such a great editor. I'm sure it has helped you a lot in your writing career so far.

Thanks for the website recommend. I'm sure many will find it useful. I believe she also has a podcast, though I haven't listened to it.

Anonymous said...

Great resources today, Julia. I love grammar, but I don't have any books to recommend. :)

Tricky grammar issues for me include knowing when to use "lie" and "lay." And sometimes, I get confused on comma usage. :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Ah, yes, "lie" and "lay" can be tricky. I'm so glad to hear from those who love grammar. I must admit I don't, but I'm so glad to know we have readers who are savvy in this area. :) Thanks for stopping by, Jeanne!

Joanne Sher said...

I LOVE proofreading. With a passion. It helps me relax. Grammar, in general, comes naturally to me. I struggle a bit here and there, but can generally find it the second time through. (though I LOVE proofreaders for ME too!)

Beth K. Vogt said...

I agree with Lindsay (no surprise there!): Grammar Girl is a great resource: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/
I also think it's great to invest in Chicago Manual of Style (the online version) because it covers everything, including punctuation and grammar, for books.

Marney McNall said...

Grammar Girl has helped me out many times. Big fan. I actually read her book cover to cover. And still, I need to go back and check things a lot.

Julia M. Reffner said...


Wow, that's neat that it helps you relax. Interesting I'll bet we all find different aspects of writing to be relaxing.


I'm not surprised to hear you're a grammar girl :). I didn't know there was an online version of Chicago Manual of Style but I think its a wise idea since it seems to change versions so frequently.


OK, you gals have convinced me. I'll definitely have to give this book a read. Maybe I'll have an upcoming post about it.

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Yay, I love helpful links! I'm not terrible with grammar but I still notice I make a lot of mistakes. Thank goodness for smart critique partners :)

Julia M. Reffner said...


Thank goodness for smart crit partners indeed. :)