GrammarPhile Blog

Cookie Day

Posted by Julie Holzmann   Dec 7, 2023 8:00:00 AM


December 4 was National Cookie Day. Did you miss it? Well, even if you did, let's celebrate anyway. We love a party, especially when sweets are included. How well do you know your cookies? Many of these are traditional Christmas treats. Take our quiz and test your knowledge. 

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary quiz

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.

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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

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Topics: commas, semicolon

Wide-Ranging Events

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 2, 2023 8:00:00 AM

On this day in 1976, Jimmy Carter was elected 39th president of the United States. In 1947, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose flew for the first … and last … time. In 1929, Richard Taylor, Nobel Prize-winning physicist who proved the existence of quarks, was born. In 1889, North Dakota was made the 39th state, and South Dakota was made the 40th state. And in 1570, a tidal wave in the North Sea destroyed the sea walls from Holland to Jutland. More than 1,000 people were killed. Do you have what it takes to rise to fame and fortune on your intellect alone? Or are you strictly a flatlander unable to rise to any level of importance in this age of ineloquence? Take our test and find out!

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Topics: vocabulary test, vocabulary quiz

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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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13 Uncommon Punctuation Marks and How to Use Them

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 17, 2023 10:44:53 AM

Punctuation marks are teeny, but they should never be underestimated. They inform the literal and implied meaning, cadence, and emotion of every word we write (and read). That said, sometimes the average exclamation mark or serious serial comma or even an enthusiastic em dash doesn’t cut it. You need something with more flair and precision — an uncommon punctuation mark.

This list is the grammatical equivalent of a chef’s special. The VIP lounge. The decorative embellishments of an A-grade interior designer. Prepare to surprise and impress people with 13 uncommon punctuation marks and how to use them. And fair warning: Your writing may never be the same.


1. Acclamation Point

The acclamation point is used to demonstrate an enthusiastic sense of goodwill or welcome and is placed at the end of a sentence. You could use it when greeting your mother-in-law for a monthlong stay (assuming you love her very much).

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