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Grammar Quirks: Tyler James Smith and His Quest to Reinstate 'Elsehow'

Tyler James Smith, author of "Unstoppable Moses," discusses beautifully boring and impossible-to-spell words, along with emotional reactions to punctuation.

By
Mignon Fogarty,
Unstoppable Moses

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

Tyler James Smith: Easy: “Monotonous.” I love it because even the word itself is monotonous—mo, no, to, no, u, s. It’s such a beautifully boring word that breaks its own tedium with “us” at the end—Shakespeare didn’t write better love stories than that.

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

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TJS: "Irregardless" is not a word, but when I hear it, it’s one that always makes my face do weird and terrible things. The only time in real life that people should use “irregardless” is when telling family members at holiday get-togethers that “irregardless” isn’t a word.

GG: What word will you always misspell?

TJS: I will always and forever spell “decent” when I’m trying to spell “descent,” and vice versa. Also, "diarrhea."

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

TJS: "Elsehow." It used to be a word, but then it was just kind of left behind in our lexicon, and that’s some garbage that I want to rectify.

GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?

TJS: I will go stone-faced and start thinking bad thoughts about even my favorite authors if they use !? or ?? or anything other than a single punctuation mark. Authors should have to pay steep, terrible fines for every additional punctuation mark they tack on to the single and only one they need.

I’m going to have a hell of a time falling into a world where everyone speaks in accordance with MLA/APA guidelines.

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

TJS: It’s definitely there, but more as a rule to be broken. People contract words when they speak (or flat-out use the wrong ones), people use shorthand, people speak in fragments and run-ons. In short, people are people, not machines. I’m going to have a hell of a time falling into a world where everyone speaks in accordance with MLA/APA guidelines. 

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

TJS: “In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment.”
― Haruki Murakami, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle"

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

TJS: Hyphens and semicolons, always. I love them, and I’m never confident that I’m using them correctly. They just make the world such a beautiful place that I forget that they have, you know, rules.

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