Category Archives: Grammar Excellence

Diagramming Obama’s Sentences

I have never diagrammed a sentence in my life.  I was never taught this in school.  People often ask me how I gained my knowledge of grammar, and the answer is just that I’ve been an avid reader my whole life.  It’s hard not to learn sentence structure when you’re constantly reading.

I was, however, quite amused to find a diagrammed sentence spoken by our President at his first official press conference.

Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein asked President Obama (PRESIDENT OBAMA! PRESIDENT OBAMA! IT STILL THRILLS ME TO HEAR OR READ THAT!) whether he would consider investigating members of the Bush Administration, up to and including Bush himself.

The President’s response:

“My view is also that nobody’s above the law, and, if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that, generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards.”


Here’s what blogger Garth Risk Hallberg had to say:

First, the elegant balance of the central construction (My view is that x, and that y, but also that z) shows that Obama has a good memory for where he’s been, grammatically, and a strong sense of where he’s going. His tripartite analysis of the problem is clearly reflected in the structure of the sentence, and thus in the three main branches of the diagram. (Turn it on its side and it could be a mobile.) The third “that” – thrown in 29 words into a 43-word sentence – creates three parallel predicate nouns. And then there’s a little parallel flourish at the end: “I am more interested in looking forward than I am in looking back.”

I think I blacked out while reading that — but it’s still awesome.

Bill Cosby = Grammar WIN!

Earlier in this blog’s history, I talked about Bill Cosby’s latest book, Come On People.  (I discussed it here and later here.)

Oh, Bill.  Oh, publishing company.  Without the comma, there’s suddenly a LOT of innuendo in this title.  (The cover art doesn’t help, either.)

Well, I was perusing the books at Borders the other day and saw the latest edition of the book:


They actually added the comma!

THIS MAKES ME SO HAPPY!!  It’s so rare that you actually see a company changing its grammar after customer complaints!  (Believe me, there were a lot of complaints.  This book got a lot of press for its missing comma in the title.)

I have to give a shout-out to the book’s publisher, Thomas Nelson.  Well done, Tommy boy.  Very well done.

To Serve and Correct

I just came across an interesting article in the UK’s Ilkeston Advertiser:

Derbyshire police officers have become the first in Britain to get a new educational booklet, which includes tips on how to spell.

Superintendent Gary Knighton has distributed the Fast Facts for Policing booklet to all 1,800 officers in the county.

It contains multiplication tables and the correct spellings of the days of the week and months of the year.

The differences between source and sauce, whether and weather and two and too are explained. And officers are advised on how to use the 24-hour clock.

Supt Knighton said: “Spellings and terminology are very important in our line of work and accuracy is key when producing official documents. We’re pleased to be the first force to offer people the opportunity to improve their skills in this way and we hope other constabularies will consider distributing the Fast Facts booklet.”

Multiplication tables?  Really?

It sounds a bit ridiculous when you picture cops running down the street, fighting crime while referring to their little books.  (It reminds me of this hilarious Conan O’Brien sketch.  “Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich!  Nooooooooo!”)

Sometimes you have to start with the very basics, the very minimums that help you avoid embarrassment.

Also, keep in mind that if a cop spells a month incorrectly on a speeding ticket, you could probably contest it.

What do you think?

Forgive me….a subject about which I am passionate

I try to keep the political blogging restricted to Kate’s Adventures, but this made me so excited, I just had to share it.

First I came across this piece written by Bil Browning on the Bilerico Project, which says that Barack Obama will be announcing Indiana Senator (and former governor) Evan Bayh as his running mate on Wednesday.  That, by itself alone, made me squeal with excitement.  I am crazy about this election!  (And I LOVE that Barack is celebrating his birthday in my beloved Boston tonight!)

And then it got even better.  Watch the last sentence in this speech by Evan Bayh:

Together, we can build an America of which we can be proud.

Not an America we can be proud of.

I knew that Bayh was one of the top contenders, but he wasn’t my first choice of a running mate.  Watching him say that beautiful sentence made me grin.  It’s going to be good.

Punctuation Contest!

I have an idea.  I’ve had Big Gay Al’s “I’m Super” (from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut) stuck in my head all day, so I’d like to do something with it on the blog.

I’d like to see if you can do the impossible — perfectly punctuate an insanely written sentence, while keeping it one sentence.  No cheating!

Here it is:

“Everything is super when you don’t you think I look cute in this hat”

How would YOU do it?

I’m trying to think of a prize I can offer…the only thing I can think of is plugging your blog and getting you into any club in Las Vegas.

Furthermore, where did B.G.A. get his matching tie?  I always thought it was Bob’s, though some of the lyrics online say Vogue and some say Merv’s.

Happy punctuating — and to my fellow Yanks, have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Annoyances of Lately

My power cord died last week and it has been hellish trying to do anything on my computer with a universal cord (it once took me five minutes to type out a one-paragraph message on Facebook!).  I ordered a new one.

And this is what Dell had to say:

Not totally egregious…

Not the worst thing I’ve seen in the last few days…

But…it wouldn’t kill Dell to invest in a big of punctuation.

Also, I headed to Whole Foods after work yesterday (I absolutely LOVE that it’s so easy that Whole Foods in Charles River Plaza is a short walk from my new office and right on the way home!), not expecting anything but a few bagfuls of organic fruit and some of that FANTASTIC fresh mozzarella that they have on display in the produce section.

And there came the grammar.

I saw a sign near the register that mentioned how Whole Foods does work EACH DAY to help people living with HIV/AIDS.  The sign, however, said EVERY DAY.

I was so surprised and happy.  It seems like everyone just says EVERYDAY lately.  It’s gotten to the point that when I see EVERY DAY instead of EVERYDAY, when meaning EACH DAY, I become giddy.

That shouldn’t happen!  I shouldn’t be expecting the worst!!

It was correct.  After all, it was Whole Foods.  This is the grocery store featuring more expensive and healthful food, and therefore likely attracts a highly educated clientele.

It made me happy.

And then I saw the sign on the back of the register, facing the customer:


No question mark.

Aw, and to think it was so good…

I would love to see a business free of grammatical errors.  It would be even better if it were a chain.  And who knows?  Maybe that’s one of Whole Foods’s goals.  These signs were handmade and exclusive to the Charles River Plaza store.

I’ll let you know if I find anything else.


I know I’ve been a bit heavy on T-shirt postings these days, but this latest T-shirt deserves attention.  As soon as I fully understood what it meant, I felt the urge to buy it, just for its grammatical correctness!

Check it out:

At first, I thought it said, “We’re #1.”  That would make it a nice antiquated T-shirt, reminiscent of the past.  But then I realized that I had read the words too quickly, and hadn’t noticed that there was no apostrophe.

The shirt is meant to read, “Were #1,” as in “Used to be #1.”


Some of you know that I am a huge geography nerd in addition to being a grammar nerd.  In fact, I’m much more of a geography-phile than a grammar-phile.

Because of my geographic knowledge, I am particularly THRILLED that this shirt includes Northern Ireland in order to form the United Kingdom.  The United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; Britain consists of everything but Northern Ireland.

For those reasons, this shirt is PERFECT.

Buy it here.  It’s on sale for $14.99 this week.

I already own three shirts from bustedtees.comWithout Me, It’s Just Aweso; Irish I Were Drunk (I wear it exclusively on St. Paddy’s Day and on days when I go to Celtics games) and SILF.

I swear, Busted Tees isn’t paying me to advertise their wares.  The fact that the “Were #1” shirt took me a second to actually get it made it well worth posting!

The German Grammar Vandal

I’m very happy to post this next entry.

One of my readers, Christina — better known in the comments as “junior alien” — has been reading this blog for quite some time.  She is from Germany and she’s a fan of the English language, especially of the errors found in advertisements and street signs.

So, what did she do?

She started the German version of The Grammar Vandal — Sprachvandali.  Check it out!

I know a little German — and he’s sitting over there!  Badum-ching!

Seriously, though, even after living with a German girl for almost a year and traveling to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland, my German is limited to danke schoen, prost and lederhosen.  (Thank you very much, cheers and funny traditional German garb for men.)

Check it out!

Thanks to Christina for reading my site and being lovely enough to create her own grammar blog!

Single ladies!

Are you single?  Female?  In Boston?  Looking for a guy around the age of 26?

You may be in luck.  And from the looks of his quotation marks, he may be British, too!

Gmail, I LOVE YOU.

Every now and then, there is a moment of grammar excellence that warms me from the inside out.

Thank you, Gmail. 


Thank you for doing the unpopular thing.

Thank you for not taking the easy way out.

Thank you for showing us that some people still care about preserving our language.

A Lesson from the Best Show on TV

From 30 Rock:

Tracy Jordan, insane actor: Hey, boy. How are you doing?
Toofer, Harvard-educated comedy writer: I’m doing good.
Tracy Jordan, insane actor: No, you’re not, idiot! Superman does good. You do well. You gotta start taking care with your English, son!

30 Rock is the best, funniest and most unjustly ignored show on TV. Click here to buy the DVD on (well worth it) or click here to watch an episode for free. You can also watch the first season on demand via Netflix!

Gifts for the Grammarian

I’m back! I’m back!

Sorry for the absence. I hope you’re all well.

I got a few grammar-oriented gifts for Christmas — which, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting at all!

First of all, my friend Lisa got me this magnet:

They have a whole line of products with this image, from shirts and tank tops to pins, stickers and bags. Check out the line here.

From my dad, I got the book Woe is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English:

I leafed through the book, and it has a lot of great topics for future posts. Buy it on Amazon here.

Stay tuned….

The Anti-LOLcat

Thanks, Ryan.

If you enjoyed that….you’ll most certainly enjoy this, one of the funniest things I’ve read lately.

The Office: Whoever vs. Whomever

Ryan: What I really want — honestly, Michael — is for you to know it so you can communicate it to the people here, to your clients, to whomever.
Michael: Oh, okay…
Ryan: What?
Michael: It’s whoever, not whomever.
Ryan: No, it’s whomever…
Michael: No…whomever is never actually right.
Jim: Well, sometimes it’s right.
Creed: Michael is right. It’s a made-up word used to trick students.
Andy: No. Actually, whomever is the formal version of the word.
Oscar: Obviously, it’s a real word, but I don’t know when to use it correctly.
Michael (to the camera): Not a native speaker.
Kevin: I know what’s right, but I’m not gonna say because you’re all jerks who didn’t come see my band last night.
Ryan: Do you really know which one is correct?
Kevin: I don’t know.
Pam: It’s whom when it’s the object of the sentence and who when it’s the subject.
Phyllis: That sounds right.
Michael: Well, it sounds right, but is it?
Stanley: How did Ryan use it, as an object?
Ryan: As an object…
Kelly: Ryan used me as an object.
Stanley: Is he right about that?
Pam: How did he use it again?
Toby: It was…Ryan wanted Michael, the subject, to, uh explain the computer system, the subject–
Michael: Yes!
Toby: –to whomever, meaning us, the indirect object…which is the correct usage of the word.
Michael: No one asked you anything, ever, so whomever’s name is Toby, why don’t you take a letter opener and stick it into your skull?
Thanks to Jess and everyone who told me I had to post this. I’ll be watching the actual episode later today.