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Grammar Quirks: Mikita Brottman on Writing Clearly

Mikita Brottman, author of Couple Found Slaindiscusses the grammar quirks she incorporates into her writing. 

By
Mikita Brottman, writing for
2-minute read

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

Mikita Brottman: I don’t have a single favorite. Words with an X or Q in them are always appealing. I also like words with Latin prefixes or suffixes—I like the logic of the system. And I was thinking earlier this morning about how much I like the word “creeper.”

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

MB: Words and phrases that annoy me at the moment are “robust,” “equity,” “utilize,” “modality,” and “functionality.” They’re clumsy, awkward, confusing attempts to express very simple concepts.

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GG: What word will you always misspell?

MB: “Embarrass” is a tough one.

I like words with Latin prefixes or suffixes—I like the logic of the system.

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

MB: A word for the letdown you feel when you taste something and it’s an artificial version of the real thing (eg. fake cream, processed cheese, instant coffee, etc). 

GG: Any grammar pet peeves we should know about?

MB:   It’s not a pet peeve, but it always bothers me when a writer can’t picture what they’re saying. Dangling modifiers, mixed metaphors, abstract nouns, cliches, lack of precision—these all impede clarity.

It always bothers me when a writer can’t picture what they’re saying. Dangling modifiers, mixed metaphors, abstract nouns, cliches, lack of precision—these all impede clarity.

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

MB: “Although we read with our minds, the seat of artistic delight is between the shoulder blades. That little shiver behind is quite certainly the highest form of emotion … Let us worship the spine and its tingle.” Vladimir Nabokov.

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

MB: I always struggle with getting the rhythm of my sentences right. And once I’ve fixed the rhythm, how do I vary that rhythm as the paragraph unfolds?