Myra here. Recently I sat down for an enlightening one-on-one, no-holds-barred interview with the Grammar Queen.
Amazingly, I am still alive to tell about it.
Although she did rap me on the knuckles a few times for getting a little too personal with my questioning. However, when I explained how her willingness to talk freely on certain subjects could greatly benefit the writers and readers of Seekerville, I got her to open up.
Here’s how the interview went.
|original photo: bigstock.com|
MJ: Grammar Queen, I just want to say what an honor and a privilege it is to spend this time with you.
GQ: Of course it is, my dear. So why don’t you just say it?
MJ: I . . . thought I just did.
GQ: No, dear. You said you wanted to say—oh, never mind. Please. Ask me whatever you wish. I’m always glad to bestow my wisdom upon seekers after grammatical mastery. Seekers—ha ha! Did you notice my clever allusion?
MJ: Yes, of course, GQ. You are ever the witty one. Ahem! Before we begin, I’m liking your stylish new look.
GQ: I’m so glad! Yes, I felt it was time for a change. My drab black-and-white world had lost its appeal, and my bejeweled crown and corsage do look so much lovelier in color, don’t you think?
MJ: Most definitely, and you do look divine. Let’s get started, shall we? Since you did promise to answer candidly, my first question is rather personal. What exactly is your fascination with grammar-checking every single word or punctuation mark that passes before my eyes? Or pours forth from my computer keyboard? Actually, fascination doesn’t quite cut it. I’d have to say you’re obsessed—OUCH!!!!
GQ: Dear me, I hope that won’t leave a mark.
MJ: [rubbing hand where GQ impaled it with her crown] Okay, we’ll stick with fascinated. So . . . tell us, please. When did your fascination with grammar begin?
GQ: My grammatical beginnings were quite humble, actually. I was once not so very different from you—
MJ: Um, I hate to break this to you, GQ, but you are me . . . in a freakish, alter-ego kind of way.
GQ: Let’s not get insulting, dear. As I was saying, I began as a student hungry for learning and in love with the written word. Then one day, there it was on the blackboard in front of me, a perfectly diagrammed sentence in all its glorious splendor. Subject, verb, direct object. Modifiers, prepositional phrases, dependent clauses. In the presence of such profundity I could only look on in awestruck wonder, utterly speechless—
MJ: Speechless. Right. [Dodges another tiara swat.] I hope you have that thing insured for dents. Next question. I’m sure you have a list of most annoying grammar blunders. Care to share?
GQ: How long do you have? Because this could take awhile.
MJ: What if we narrow it down to the top three?
GQ: If you insist. Number one would be the incorrect use of a subjective pronoun following a verb, as in, “Give Sue and I a call next time you’re in town.”
MJ: It should be “Sue and me,” right? Because me is the objective case.
GQ: Precisely. One would never say, “Give I a call,” would one? So a simple test is to restate the phrase with only the verb and pronoun. The same is true for prepositional phrases, also requiring the objective case. For example, it is blatantly incorrect to say “between you and I.”
MJ: This seems like a simple enough rule to remember. What do you think the problem is, GQ? Because I hear mistakes like this all the time.
GQ: Apparently, some people think the subjective-case pronoun sounds more educated, which obviously could not be further from the truth. This is snobbery. Pure and simple snobbery. And believe me, dear, GQ knows snobbery when she encounters it.
MJ: You don’t have to convince me, GQ. Do enlighten us further.
GQ: In a similar vein, let us address the misuse of whoever/whomever. I frequently hear supposedly erudite individuals saying something like, “I will speak to whomever calls first.” In this sentence, whomever is the subject of a dependent clause, so rightly it should be “whoever calls first.”
MJ: Right. Whatever. Let’s move on to annoying grammar blunder number two.
GQ: Dangling participles, without a doubt. Here’s an example: “Driving home from work, a pebble hit my windshield.” Now really, one must wonder what that troublesome pebble was driving, not to mention where it may have found employment.
MJ: So obviously, the remedy is to make sure the noun the participle phrase refers to is in closest proximity to the phrase.
GQ: A gold star for you, my dear!
MJ: Great! What’s annoying grammar blunder number three?
GQ: There are so many to choose from! Do I go with the lie/lay confusion? The difference between its and it’s or your and you’re? No, I believe I will choose the pluralization of proper nouns. Certainly you’re familiar with the old saying about keeping up with the Joneses?
MJ: Not “the Jones’s,” right? The apostrophe makes it possessive.
GQ: At the risk of further confusion, if we are talking about something belonging to the Jones family, the correct form would be “the Joneses’ house,” or if only one family member, “Mr. Jones’s car.”
MJ: I think I get it, GQ. My intention wasn’t to turn this interview into a grammar class, so if any of our Seekervillagers are interested in clarification of these rules, just browse the labels list on the right for “Grammar Queen” (or click on this link) and you can access any of GQ’s riveting lectures. For now, though, let’s talk a little about grammar and the fiction writer. Where do we draw the line between proper grammar and the more natural-flowing style of a novel?
GQ: My dear, I understand completely that a fiction writer’s style often includes incomplete sentences and colloquialisms in order to immerse oneself into deep point of view. Also, when writing realistic conversation in dialogue, fictional characters are not expected to speak with correct grammar—unless it is in their nature to do so. GQ will even permit the random mistakenly used lay for lie in a character’s speech. However, commas and other punctuation always require correct placement. In addition, I must insist upon proper pluralization and appropriate use of the apostrophe or apostrophe-s for indicating possession. Certain rules are not meant to be broken.
MJ: I would imagine, then, that you are a strong proponent of securing the services of a skilled editor—or, at the very least, a good proofreader—for anyone planning to independently publish a book.
GQ: Indeed. I also highly recommend careful proofreading of your manuscript before submitting it to an agent or traditional publishing house. First impressions count!
MJ: I’m in complete agreement. One last question, GQ. In honor of Seekerville’s eighth birthday, how about sharing eight of your favorite resources for help with grammar and usage?
GQ: Delighted to.
- Chicago Manual of Style, and also the CMS website, where you can find answers to many questions of grammar, punctuation, and usage.
- Grammatically Correct: The Essential Guide to Spelling, Style, Usage, Grammar, and Punctuation
- Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style
- Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips
- Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary and thesaurus for checking spelling and for making sure you use the correct word
- Easily Confused or Misused Words
- Oxford Dictionaries Commonly Confused Words
MJ: Thank you, GQ. And now let’s open the floor for questions from our Seekervillagers. Don’t be nervous, folks. I promise GQ’s bark is worse than her bite—OUCH!!!
To celebrate Grammar Queen’s royal visit for Seekerville’s monthlong birthday party, we have some giveaways! Be sure to mention in the comments any of the drawings you’d like to be entered in.
- 1 copy of Grammatically Correct (mentioned above; paperback for U.S. residents, or Kindle edition for anyone)
- 1 signed copy of your choice of one of Myra's print novels, including her latest release, The Sweetest Rain, for U.S. residents, or Kindle edition (if available) for anyone
- surprise package of books from a variety of Christian authors (U.S. residents only)