GrammarPhile Blog

Sara Richmond

Recent Posts

Gettysburg Revisited

Posted by Sara Richmond   Nov 30, 2023 7:30:00 AM

A Case for Useless Degrees

“You have a degree in English. You’re not going to be able to find another job,” the CEO said.

It was 2007. I’d graduated from college and hadn’t immediately become a best-selling author with minimal effort. After taking a few minutes to recover from that shock, I applied for a job at a financial services company in their auto insurance line.

I worked there for two months before my then-husband received a sudden, permanent change of duty station, out of state. (Military spouses have notoriously abysmal unemployment rates, and this is a perfect example of why.)

After several months of searching, I landed a temp job at a beauty manufacturer as an executive assistant. The pay was as depressing as the atmosphere. You know the vocational honeymoon season followed by a slow-growing awareness that you’re being boiled alive? The honeymoon was approximately 30 seconds long. I felt a strong impulse to plow into a ditch every morning as I drove to work.

Read More

Topics: effective writing, creative writing

How to Use Semicolons Correctly

Posted by Sara Richmond   Nov 9, 2023 8:00:00 AM

“How hideous is the semicolon,” Samuel Beckett said.

If we had to guess, we’d say Sam received a particularly excruciating rejection letter from his first crush, complete with multiple semicolons.

We bear no such resentment. In fact, we think semicolons are incredibly useful. But let’s start at the beginning so everyone can join in the fun.

What Is a Semicolon?

A semicolon is a little punctuation person about to dance.

See here ➡️ ; ⬅️. Such incredible form! Such armless fluidity!

A semicolon is more forceful than a comma, but weaker than a period. It’s a way to separate two full sentences without breaking them apart, or a way to clarify a long sentence with two or more sections.

To be more specific, there are five common instances when you should use a semicolon.

5 Times to Use a Semicolon

Read More

Topics: commas, semicolon

I Hate Grammar

Posted by Sara Richmond   Oct 26, 2023 10:13:46 AM

It doesn’t take repeated run-ins with the grammar police to make people hate grammar. It seems more like an inevitability. An innate disgust. “We all hate port-a-potties, nails on a chalkboard, and grammar.”

But if it’s not a unanimous, inborn hatred, then why do people hate grammar? I’ve consolidated the five most common explanations for your joyful commiseration.

5 Reasons People Hate Grammar

  1. Grammar is confusing. There are a million complicated rules. In the ungrammatical but apt words of a much-memed Kimberly “Sweet Brown” Wilkins, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
  2. Grammar is boring. The only people who nerd out on grammar are just as insufferable as the grammar they proclaim to love (and they have to be lying, right?).
  3. Grammar is elitist. You know who created grammar? People in power. You want to know which people struggle with mainstream grammar and have been excluded from society, opportunities, respect, and countless other benefits of speaking “acceptably” and “correctly”? Marginalized people. Grammar is, in short, “the man.”
  4. Grammar is pointless. What’s the big deal, anyway? When you turn on the news, correct grammar pales in comparison to all the horrifying things happening—the stuff that does matter. You’ve “got 99 problems,” and grammar ain’t one of them.
  5. Grammar is poorly taught. If you’re like me, your primary/secondary grammar education could be summarized by a random smattering of the definitions for words such as “subject,” “verb,” “adjective,” and “predicate.” And even those you aren’t too sure about.
Read More

Topics: grammar

How to Use Find and Replace in Microsoft Word and Google Docs

Posted by Sara Richmond   Oct 12, 2023 7:30:00 AM

(Without Breaking Everything)

There are a few things that should terrify everyone: clowns, sharks, a clown-shark-tornado, and using Find and Replace with unintended consequences.

To quell your nightmares, we’ve outlined the basics of using Find and Replace in Microsoft Word and Google Docs.

No matter which word processing software you prefer, don’t miss the final “Pitfalls” section—a list of the most common ways people break everything with Find and Replace and how to avoid them.

Using Find and Replace in Microsoft Word

If you’re new to the Find and Find and Replace tools, the best approach is using it on a case-by-case basis.

In other words, instead of trying to find and highlight every instance of your search en masse, look through them one by one, ensuring the initial search reflects your intent. If you were searching for instances of “corn” and realize all four instances of “unicorn” were also highlighted, you can correct your search (see Pitfalls section below). When you’re replacing text or punctuation marks, you can do so one at a time as well, confirming that each one is being replaced exactly as you intended.

This may sound cumbersome, but you’ll still save time versus skimming and manually deleting and retyping. Once you’re more confident in the mechanics of this tool, finding and replacing all instances will be less terrifying and error-prone.

Read More

Topics: Find and replace

Did You Ace Part 2 of Our Spelling Quiz?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Sep 29, 2023 10:00:00 AM

(Most People Couldn’t)

If you took part 2 of our most recent spelling quiz and were embarrassed by your score or confused by the answers, this post is for you.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of the right answers, the wrong answers, and definitions/examples of both.

A Breakdown of the Spelling Quiz That Tripped Up a Bunch of Smart Professionals

  1. The sad testimony will definitely test one’s medal/metal/mettle/meddle.

WRONG – medal: What Olympians get if they’re in the top three — bronze, silver, and gold. Medals are sometimes made of metal (see directly below).

WRONG – metal: Steel, copper, nickel, bronze, iron, gold, and silver, for example.

WRONG – meddle: This is what the town gossip or your nosy family does. “Meddle” in your affairs. Get all up in your business. Butt in. Ugh!

✔️RIGHT – mettle: This is the stuff you’re made of: your stamina, grit, temperament, and strength of spirit. Warriors prove their mettle in battle. Parents of toddlers prove their mettle at bed and meal times.

Read More

Topics: quiz answers

Can You Ace This Spelling Quiz? Part 2

Posted by Sara Richmond   Sep 14, 2023 8:00:00 AM

(Most People Can't)

This is part 2 of a spelling quiz we recently posed to a group of highly educated legal marketing and business development professionals at an annual conference. They were sure they could ace our questions—communication is the foundation of their businesses.

Guess what?

Most of them made mistakes! In fact, many of them made the same mistakes! They were gobsmacked.

Read More

Topics: word quiz, vocabulary quiz

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word: Which Is Better?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Aug 31, 2023 8:00:00 AM

The level of hate some people have for Microsoft Word is alarming and hilarious. But the amount of vitriol people spew over Google Docs is about the same.

Instead of wading into that cesspool of disgruntledness, we’ll stick with answering the burning question: Is Google Docs better than Microsoft Word?

The answer is, as with many things, “it depends.”

Let’s cover the most important (and most argued over) features of Google Docs and Microsoft Word: accessibility, collaboration, UI (user interface), price, compatibility, functionality, and customization.

Google Docs vs. Microsoft Word by Feature

1. Accessibility

Google Docs: You can operate Google Docs on any computer or browser, except for BlackBerry phones (condolences to that one person still using a BlackBerry, wherever you are). Since it’s cloud-based, you won’t need to stick with a specific device to access in-process documents. But if you don’t have access to the internet, you’re out of luck (though there are offline features). However, you won’t ever lose a document or the changes you made (saved in real time) unless an asteroid hits Earth.

Microsoft Word: You’ll need to be working from a computer with a Windows or Mac operating system. While it’s great to be able to access your documents from a single place regardless of internet access, that also means you have to have that same device to work with, every time. You run the risk of losing documents if your hard drive goes wonky or your OS goes on strike and a file isn’t recoverable. Enabling auto save can compensate for this risk.

Our Take: Google Docs wins on accessibility unless the zombie apocalypse happens.

Read More

How to Improve Your Writing for Free

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jul 27, 2023 7:00:00 AM

At, we give away our secrets. All the juicy goodness of how to be a great writer — expressing exactly what you want to in powerful, precise, as-close-to-perfect-as-possible language.

We also earn our keep with these secrets, by proofreading and copyediting business documents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (and one extra in leap years).

On the surface, that sounds like a pretty dumb business model. Giving away our service, in a sense.

Aren’t we undermining profits? Putting ourselves out of work? Making ourselves obsolete, especially in the age of generative AI?

Not likely. Even the best writers use editors. In fact, the best writers are often the best writers because they understand that writing is an incremental, innately human, nuanced process of refinement, one that, if you’re serious about it, could last forever. But nobody has forever. So we’re bound to be around for a long time, helping time-strapped businesses that have a lot to say.

Still, our belief in our longevity doesn’t explain our primary motivations for helping people become better writers.

Read More

Topics: business writing, proofreading

Did You Ace Our Spelling Quiz?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jul 13, 2023 7:00:00 AM


                    (Most People Couldn’t)


If you took our most recent spelling quiz and were disappointed with your score or confused by the answers, this post is for you.

Keep reading for a full breakdown of the right answers, the wrong answers, and definitions of both.



A Breakdown of The Spelling Quiz That Tripped Up a Bunch of Smart Professionals

1. The facts involved a study in plain/plane geometry.

WRONG – plain: Not decorated, obvious, boring, or ordinary. (We won’t argue that geometry is boring to some people, but that’s not the intended meaning here.)

✔️  RIGHT – plane: “A flat level or surface” in this case. In other words: the study of 2D shapes.

2. He spoke pidgin/pigeon English when he had to.

WRONG – pigeon: It’s feathered, gray-ish, and poops all over buildings and park benches. But pigeons don’t speak an official language.

✔️RIGHT – pidgin: A simplified speech that allows people speaking different languages to communicate. The word originated from a Chinese corruption of the word “business.” A “creole” is a complete pidgin language, such as Haitian Creole, Gullah, and Jamaican Creole, passed down to the children of adult pidgin speakers, thereby becoming a native language.

Read More

Topics: word quiz, vocabulary quiz

How to Use They’re, Their, and There Correctly

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jun 8, 2023 7:00:00 AM

Meanings and Examples

Read this 5-minute grammar lesson and never doubt your spelling or use of “they’re,” “their,” or “there” again.

They’re: Meaning and Examples

If you understand the basics, you’re less likely to forget information. The most basic information about “they’re” is that it’s a contraction. When you see an apostrophe (this little fella: ’) between multiple letters in nonplural words, it’s a big, red, bouncy alert: Two or more words have been smushed together, and at least one letter/sound has been left out. These combo words are called contractions.

Contraction examples:

  • they’ll: they will
  • can’t: can not
  • wouldn’t: would not
  • she’s: she is
  • isn’t: is not
  • must’ve: must have
  • didn’t: didn’t
  • aren’t: are not
  • ’twasn’t: it was not (don’t use this unless you’re trying to write 18th-century-vibes poetry)

Apostrophes are also used to show possession (ownership) and for clarity in a few oddball plurals.

Read More

Topics: they're, their, there

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all