Grammar Quirks: Bourne Morris on Her Dislike of Fancy Words

Bourne Morris, author of "A Woman of Two Minds," discusses words she doesn't like, her daughter's invention of "smallen"-ing something, and the importance of good grammar. 

Mignon Fogarty
2-minute read

Grammar Girl: What’s your favorite word and why?

Bourne Morris: My favorite word is “concision” although it is rarely used. It’s so much more concise than "conciseness."

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GG: What’s a word you dislike (either because it’s overused or misused) and why?

BM: I dislike the use of fancy words when simple ones will do. I don’t like the use of “paradigm” when the word “example” would do.

GG: What word will you always misspell?

BM: I always have to check how I spell "alcohol." I keep putting in an extra H.

GG: What word (or semblance of a word) would you like to see added to the dictionary? Why?

BM:  When she was a two-year old, my daughter made up a wonderful word when a toy ring was too large. “We should smallen it, “she said. I think “smallen” would be a great addition.

GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?

Poor grammar stops the reader dead in her tracks. I hate stopping the reader.

BM: I avoid the use of semicolons. For me a comma means pause and a period means stop, and that’s all I need for my stories. Editors love to put in semicolons, and I love to take them right back out.

GG: To what extent does grammar play a role in character development and voice?

BM: To a great extent. Especially in dialogue, grammar helps shape the character. Also, poor grammar stops the reader dead in her tracks. I hate stopping the reader.

GG: Do you have a favorite quotation or passage from an author you’d like to share?

BM: I love James Thurber’s irritation with too many commas:  He viewed them as “upturned office chairs unhelpfully hurled down the wide-open corridor of readability.”

GG: What grammar, wording, or punctuation problem did you struggle with this week?

BM: Finding the right description for my latest book. Another word I dislike is “genre.”

About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and the author of seven books on language, including the New York Times bestseller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing." She is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame, and the show is a five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards. She has appeared as a guest expert on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Today Show. Her popular LinkedIn Learning courses help people write better to communicate better.