Everybody Loves A Troublemaker

Everybody loves the troublemaker. From Fonzy on “Happy Days” to Bart on “The Simpsons,” tricky characters have been glorified through generations. I thought I’d never be branded as rooting for the troublesome, that is, until I read Mignon Fogarty’s newest grammar book: Grammar Girl’s 101 Troublesome Words You’ll Master in No Time.

I seem to lack the ability to grasp spelling and grammar. I had to change that when I decided to write professionally. When I set out to become more grammatically enlightened, I thought the biggest hurdle I’d have to tackle would be their, there, and they’re. If I’d known how deep and dark the tunnel of grammar inaccuracies go and how many “grammarians” disagree, I may have never set out to better myself in this area.

I met Mignon at a writing workshop where she delivered the most shocking news I’d ever heard in my life: Alright is actually two words–all right. All this time, I’d been using it wrong. I was even sure that my trusty word spell checker would allow me to write it. I never remembered it being tagged as a problem before, but there it is, green squiggly line. She also suggests I not trust my spell checker.

After all my hardships through life trying to learn the English language (as a native speaker), I thought when I received a review copy of this book it might combust as soon as I made contact. The same way that matter and anti-matter would. It didn’t happen, and now I can’t unread all the alarming things I read in this book, namely that I pretty much fell for every one of the troublesome words’ tricks.

I’m in love with romance books, particularly the paranormal genre. A reoccurring theme in those books is that a secret world is taking place inside the world as we know it. I figured this must be the case with the troublesome words and Mignon is a superhuman with powers to force these troublemakers into public knowledge. She transforms an English teacher’s nerdy private pleasures into something interesting and fun.

I’ll be honest; when she told me that “alright” was two words instead of one I didn’t believe it. I went into denial, thinking she was just torturing me, or being a stickler. It had to be a commonly used word, right?

Finally, after months of suspense, I read the real reason behind why “alright” is troublesome. Apparently some words get misspelled over and over until they become common usage and accepted. Using the spelling “alright” has not reached that point as other words have like email (once spelled e-mail) or website (used to be Web site).

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, even as a grammariain’t who may never achieve spelling greatness. One of my favorite parts was the history behind what made a word controversial; it helped me feel better about being unsure of some of these words in the past. I tip my hat to the true super grammarians, like Fogarty, who fight the good fight, and making sure everything in literature is all right.

I love comments! Every time you leave a comment, Super Grammar Girl will banish a troublesome word from the evil forces of our English language.

10 thoughts on “Everybody Loves A Troublemaker

    1. Tina Post author

      I know! I’m going to click the “tell publisher to get a Kindle version” I wonder if it has anything to do with reference books selling more paper copies? It’d be hard to flip through as a reference on a kindle. Maybe if they had the names of the words she highlights in the books rather than “chapter one, chapter two, ect”

  1. Meghan Ewald

    “Alright” is definitely a tricky word. The one I always have to remind myself about is “a lot” vs “alot”. My fingers want to type “alot” because the sounds just go together. I think of them as one single word. I always have to correct myself to say “a lot”.

    I still love reading what you write. I’m eagerly awaiting the day you put out your own book, whether the subject is grammar or fiction. Maybe grammar-fiction? Create a new genre. I dare you.

    1. Tina Post author

      I’ve had the “a lot” problem fixed in my brain for a while now, thank goodness. One person should not have this many grammar problems before it’s not funny anymore. The Oatmeal has a really funny cartoon with the Alot monster. I love it.


      My own genre!? You do have high hopes for me. Well, right now I’m working on a novel that is science fiction with a little romance…

      Darn it, they already have that genre, don’t they?

      (Wait, is ‘already’ two words? I’m going to doubt myself on everything now).

    2. Diavd Norx

      I am fortunate that our freshman (high school!) hammered us on this… so have had it right for… oops, almost gave my number of decades away. What we don’t know we benefited in until decades later… a lot!

  2. Mignon Fogarty

    Thanks, Tina! The history is my favorite part too.

    Martin, the book should be available in all major e-book forms. All my other books are. I think the Amazon listing is just wrong, and I’ve e-mailed my publisher.

    I also started doing some research about “recurring” versus “reoccurring.” “Reoccurring” is in some dictionaries, and Garner’s Modern American Usage says a “recurrence” is something that happens over and over again, but a “reoccurrance” is something that happened before and happens again–with no implication that it will keep happening.

    1. Tina Post author

      Thanks Mignon!

      And we got a little lesson too–Which just proves that my statement about comments was correct. 🙂

  3. George Jacob

    Thanks so much for the “itchy ear” article you posted on another site. My skin doctor actually suggested olive oil too, which I tried and it gave relief while on the itchy area. I used a wad of cotton soaked in the oil, and stuck it in my itchy ear fold, but the itch did not go away. Playing cards one day with an emergency room doctor and other golfing buddies, I inquired what the doc would suggest, and he promptly said a hydrocortisone cream. Since the first application the itch has subsided. Twice a day seems to control the itching quite nicely. I’m in the early stages of the treatment so am hopeful it will be the cure.

    1. Tina Post author

      Thanks George,

      That article was a long long time ago, but it still remains one of my favorites (and favorite of the readers). Apparently A LOT of people have itchy ears that go untreated. Such a miserable condition.


Leave a Reply