Archive for the ‘Language and Writing’ Category

I’ve been told I uttered my first spoken word at the ripe old age of six months. During the 1967 pennant race. Whilst seated on my father’s lap as he watched the Boston Red Sox chase their Impossible Dream. Unsurprisingly, that word was “baseball”. Carl Yastrzemski may have won the American League Triple Crown, but family legend reports the beginning of my love affair with words.

Offspring of a British mother and an American father, I have trouble spelling but not in the usual sense. What public school taught me was correct, my mother challenged. What mother corrected, the schools criticized. Hence, I grew up knowing both the UK and the US spellings and use them interchangeably.

While I’ve never had trouble expressing myself (I have old report cards to prove it), I have not always enjoyed writing. I didn’t seriously start writing until I saw a chance for career advancement. Given the choice of staying an administrative assistant or becoming a grant writer, I thought, “how difficult can it be?”

Language skills are like muscles – use them, they grow strong and firm. Ignore them, and they get weak and flabby. As anyone who has started an exercise regimen after years of bodily neglect can tell you, those first few work outs are hell.

Here are a couple of great resources to help you shape up:

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty: Fresh and full of humor, I find this book a joy to read. One can read it cover to cover or select particular chapters. Ms. Fogarty writes in a warm, friendly, witty tone that engages the reader. The book provides terrific mnemonics for remembering some of the trickier nuances of grammar and usage.

While I am on the subject of Ms. Fogarty, I would be remiss if I did not mention her website, On the site, you’ll find much of the same information as in her book and then some. Weekly podcasts provide invaluable tips on how to use and remember our language. If you can’t listen to the podcasts, Ms. Fogarty provides printable transcripts.

Oh, and Ms. Fogarty has done it again: See The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus: A fantastic source for clear outlines of the rules and quizzes for building your skills. It is my “go to” book in the office because I know I will find the answer I need efficiently. Ms. Straus also offers an email newsletter subscription. I find the newsletter a helpful reminder of how I should be using the language and a source of validation for the things I know well.

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga. Ms. Trenga brilliantly tackles seven mysteries of weak writing including, my favorite, “The Tantalizing Tale of Passive Voice.” Her blog,, presents “criminal sentences” and offers ways to rewrite them into virtuous verbiage (my pun, not hers.)

English Grammar for Dummies by Geraldine Woods. DON’T get turned off by the name. This book is fantastic for looking up what you already know, but need to be sure you’re using correctly. For those who may want to practice and build their skills, Ms. Woods has also published a grammar workbook within the Dummies series.

There are many, many more references I could list, and perhaps I shall in another post. For now, armed with one or two of the above-mentioned references, I invite you to begin your own love affair with language. The more you engage with English, the more engaging it will become.

Welcome! Come on in. Settle down. Let’s get to know one another.  I’ll start.

I am a woman, daughter, sister, friend, aunt, Bostonian, paralegal, writer, reader, massage therapist, musician, individual, 40-something-Anglophilic-Aries-auriliophile.

Why have I named my blog Cats & Grammar? I love cats. All cats: big cats, small cats, wild cats, demented cats (of which there have been quite a few in my life), fat cats, skinny cats, and most of all, MY cats.  And, I love words. I love languages. Language is fun. Grammar and usage is my geeky pleasure.

Beyond cats and grammar, I am passionate about life, love, music, learning, hedgehogs, children, reading, travel – especially to Great Britain – and so much more.

I plan to use this blog to explore things that rouse my curiosity and pass along things I’ve learned. Occasionally, there will be the odd creative piece of writing. I leave the defining of “odd” up to you, Dear Reader.

Please visit often and let me know you’ve stopped by with comment – whether a simple hello or a bit of constructive criticism – I’m looking forward to the conversation.


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