Grammar Girl Essentials

Joe Muscolino
3-minute read

It’s been over ten years since Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl, wrote and recorded her first episode.

Sitting in a coffee shop in Santa Cruz, Mignon was freelance editing when she began noticing the same mistakes being made over and over again by different clients. Cue the light bulb: What if there was a way to wipe the dust off the English language and teach grammar rules in a fun, approachable way?

Hundreds of episodes, thousands of articles, and millions of listens later, Grammar Girl continues to help English speakers navigate the troubled waters andyes, imperfect scienceof English language construction.

If you’re new to Grammar Girl, you’ll find the below episodes essential listening to both get to know what Grammar Girl is all about as well as form a foundation for your grammar needs. And if you’re already a die-hard fan? Take a stroll down memory lane (and brush up on the basics) with these time-tested topics.

Affect Versus Effect

This one still trips up even the most confident of writers. While this is one of the most requested grammar questions that’s ever passed Grammar Girl’s desk, there’s actually a surprisingly simple solution to remembering the difference between affect and effect: Use the RAVEN trick! Remember: Affect Verb, Effect Noun. Easy peasy. Any other mnemonic trick is for the birds.

Noah Webster’s Dream

If you’ve ever wondered why people in the United States drop the ‘u’ in words like ‘colo(u)r’ and ‘favo(u)r,’ or wondered why British English uses quotation marks in a different way than American English, the answer has to do with spelling reform. Learn about how Noah Webster sought to change the English language, plus some other areas of language change that we can’t lay at Webster’s feet.

'Lay' Versus 'Lie'

It can be hard to remember the correct way to conjugate the verbs lay and lie -- partly because there are so many famous quotes and song lyrics that get it wrong! It’s actually pretty simple: You lay something down, and people lie down by themselves. But it can still be hard to remember, so tune in for Grammar Girl’s memory trick.

First, Second, and Third Person

I walked to the store. You walked to the store. They walked to the store, and they ran into us on the way. These are examples of first, second and third person perspectives in writing. But what kind of impression does each one give off, and when is each one appropriate to use? Grammar Girl explains.

Active Voice and Passive Voice

You may have heard that writing in active voice is good and passive voice is bad. Well, that’s not always true! There’s a time and a place for each one. As Grammar Girl explains here, it’s more important to keep your writing naturalistic and simple to understand than it is to stick to any single rule of voice.

Top 10 Grammar Myths

Even the most dedicated grammarians can hear misinformation sometimes, and unfortunately, sometimes it spreads. Here are ten grammar ideas that people tend to get wrong, and explanations for why each one misses the mark.

'Bad' Versus 'Badly'

It’s a common myth that you should say you “feel badly” instead of that you “feel bad.” Of course, we’d rather that you not feel bad at all, but if you are feeling regretful, Grammar Girl has the quick and dirty scoop on why the ‘-ly’ ending is the way to go.