Let’s face it: without rules there would be no editors. Editors love rules. Editors need rules. And while the golden rule of our profession is to always maintain and honor the voice of each author’s work, we must ultimately use our skills and knowledge of grammar and language to improve upon a piece. We pride ourselves on strictly adhering to a text’s given style guide and spotting an ill-placed dash or misuse of “effect” from a mile away. Each new law of language learned is filed into our editing arsenal, as we will surely run into that very issue in some project down the line—one less thing we’ll have to double check in The Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press Stylebook as a tight deadline looms.
That’s why I adore Grammar Girl. A master of English language rules, Mignon Fogarty broaches common grammar mistakes in a simple way, so that even the most novice writers and editors can understand and retain them. From topics such as run-on sentences, semi-colons and ellipses, to capitalization, modifiers, and lay versus lie, she provides her audience with detailed examples to demonstrate appropriate usage. She also introduces thought-provoking questions about the “correctness” of today’s trendy terms and catch phrases, and never fails to note instances where the rules can be flexible.
Why does all of this matter to anyone but an editor like me who notices—and delights in doing so—even the discreet, seemingly minute punctuation error on the neighbor’s mailbox? Because the rules are there for a reason: to help convey a given meaning. One word amiss can change the intended context altogether. And when you are trying to publish your first novel or land your dream job, getting your exact message across in concise, grammatically correct English is critical. Grammar Girl is just another great way for anyone to brush up on the rules and at the end of the day, improve their writing and editing skills.