Grammar Quirks: Heather Morris on 'Love' and 'Redundant'

Heather Morris discusses creating a voice for her characters and the difficulty she faces finding words to describe shameful events, even as a writer. 

Mignon Fogarty
3-minute read

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

Heather Morris:  "LOVE."  This one four-letter word embraces every aspect of my life. It allows me to express to my family and friends how I feel about them. It finds its way into so many of my conversations. I love food. I love traveling. I love writing. I love meeting people. Most of all I love spending time with the five little people in my life, my grandchildren. See what I’m saying! However, I do not use it willy-nilly.

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

HM: "Redundant." All too often used incorrectly, instead of the word "ineffective."

GG: What word will you always misspell?

HM:  "Fill." Too often I mistakenly write "full."

I allow my computer to spell words for me when I shouldn’t.

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

HM: "Kia kaha"—any Kiwi knows it. It means be brave; have strength; stand firm in the faith.

GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?

HM: I am very grateful for the editors I have in Australia, the UK, and the US who have to correct my spelling of English words that are written differently in these territories. "Colour"/"color"; "organise"/"organize". I allow my computer to spell words for me when I shouldn’t.

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

HM: Having studied screenwriting and with a passion for writing dialogue, I prefer to use the language given to me which may not be correct but underscores the "voice" of my character. This is especially so when writing language for persons for whom English is not their first language.

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


‘They met the same work norms and they ate the same watery soup. They lived in the same sort of barracks and traveled in the same cattle trains. Their clothes were almost identical, their shoes equally inadequate. They were treated no differently under interrogation. And yet—men’s and women’s camp experiences were not quite the same.’

 "Gulag: A History" by Anne Applebaum

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

HM: I have spent this week being interviewed by the press and media to promote the release of "Cilka’s Journey." This is an emotional story for me, and at times I have struggled to find the words to convey the depth of my feelings in bringing to the conversation the anger I feel for the past and present abuse of women, particularly in times of conflict. How do I convey to you the shame we should all feel in allowing girls and women to be considered the spoils of war? To use phrases like "they were comfort women." I will find the words. I must find the words.


About the Author:

Heather Morris is a native of New Zealand, now resident in Australia. For several years, while working in a large public hospital in Melbourne, she studied and wrote screenplays, one of which was optioned by an Academy Award-winning screenwriter in the US. In 2003, Heather was introduced to an elderly gentleman who ‘might just have a story worth telling’. The day she met Lale Sokolov changed both their lives. Their friendship grew and Lale embarked on a journey of self-scrutiny, entrusting the innermost details of his life during the Holocaust to her. Heather originally wrote Lale’s story as a screenplay–which ranked high in international competitions–before reshaping it into her debut novel, "The Tattooist of Auschwitz."

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.