Confessions of a Comma Queen

letseatgrandmaI spent a hot summer before my sophomore year in college studying my Grammar for Journalists book. I was preparing for the dreaded test that the University of Wisconsin Journalism School gave prospective students as part of the admissions process, and was told that more than 60 percent failed. I was one of the fortunate who passed, and thus began my obsession with grammar.

Sometimes this obsession can drive me bonkers. I catch grammatical mistakes on billboards, television screens, web sites and newspapers. I often catch them when reading a novel, and I have to convince myself to not let that ruin the book for me.betweenyouandme

But my obsession pales in comparison to Mary Norris, a retired copy editor for The New Yorker. She shares her life story and grammatical explanations in her new book, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.  She tells how she went from delivering milk in Cleveland to working at the great literary magazine in New York City.  She eloquently writes about the proper use of punctuation while throwing in some fascinating historical facts. For example, the comma was invented in 1490. Also, we can thank Noah Webster for Americanizing certain British spellings, such as colour to color and theatre to theater. (Should I have used a semi colon there? Oh dear …)

Pick up Between You & Me if you relish the English language and want to brush up on its usage, such as who vs. whom and that vs. which. Grammar has never been so entertaining.

Jo Hansen, jhansen@cooklib.org

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