Smiley Faces and Parentheses

I get questions like this a lot (and they amuse me :-)).

I get questions like this a lot (and they amuse me.) 🙂

Mignon Fogarty is the author of six writing books, including the new books 101 Misused Words You’ll Never Confuse Again, 101 Words Every High School Graduate Needs to Know, and Grammar Girl Presents the Ultimate Writing Guide for Students.

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Buy a Book Today, Get a Personal Thank-You Video


Buy a paperback copy of GRAMMAR GIRL’S 101 MISUSED WORDS YOU’LL NEVER CONFUSE AGAIN ($5.99) by midnight, Saturday, July 9, 2011;  send a screenshot or scan of your receipt to by noon (PST) Sunday, July 10, 2011; and I’ll record a personal video thank-you for you and post it as a private video at YouTube.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, IndieBound


This book has been on a tear since my Thursday interview on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.” The book actually has a decent chance of making the New York Times bestseller list, which would make me deliriously happy. This is the week the book has the best chance it will ever have, not only because of the NPR interview, but also because preorders that happened before the book launched get rolled into this week’s sales. The cut off for this week’s list is TONIGHT. I need as many sales as I can get…now, so I’m pushing it hard online.

Some people have asked if I will sign books, and because they’re helping me with this deadline—this goal that I covet—I really, really want to be able to say yes, but the logistics of signing books for people are difficult. It takes a lot of time and for a book that’s only $5.99, we’d spend more in shipping it back and forth than the cover price. So I was thinking about what other nice thing I could do for people, and the idea hit me that I could record a personal video message. I truly am grateful to everyone who buys a book, and it would be cool to be able to say thank you  to each person as face-to-face as we can get these days.

Also, a few of you have asked why I want the book to make the list or what difference it makes to sales. I’ll admit that the biggest reason is just pride and excitement. It would be so frickin’ cool to make the list that my head would metaphorically (not literally) explode. I want it. (Imagine me whining on the word “want.”) However, it also does help long-term sales. The book gets extra exposure now, and “New York Times Bestseller” gets printed on the cover in future printings, which helps people make the decision to buy it when they pick it up in stores. It may have other effects on sales that I’m not aware of, for example, it could make bookstores more likely to stock it. I’m not sure. Also, it’s great for everyone associated with the book such as my editor, agent, and the marketing and PR people at St. Martin’s. I feel a deep responsibility to all those people because they believed in me. Finally, this book making the list should be good for everyone in the Quick and Dirty Tips network who wants to write a book. It should help people at St. Martin’s think happy thoughts when they think of us.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, IndieBound

So now—you know I have to ask—will you buy a book today?

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FFP: Content Rules

CONTENT RULES: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business by Ann Handley & C. C. Chapman (Wiley)

I read Content Rules on an airplane a couple of weeks ago, and I think it’s worth noting that I could have been playing Plants Vs. Zombies or reading my favorite magazine, but instead I read the whole book. Content Rules is full of great ideas, advice, and case studies. I filled all the blank pages in the book with notes about things I want to do for Quick and Dirty Tips or Grammar Girl—ideas that were generated by reading C.C. and Ann’s book. (It freaks out my husband when I write in books, but what are those blank pages for if not for taking notes?)

Content Rules is worth your time if you’re a writer, marketer, or entrepreneur; and it has a fun tone that keeps it from being a chore to read. It’s like a chocolate cupcake laced with flax seeds and zucchini bits: good for you and tasty too.

Amazon, Book Passage, Book People, Books-a-Million, Books, Inc., Changing Hands, IndieBound, Kepler’s, Politics and Prose, Porter Square, Powell’s, Tattered Cover, Wiley

What is FFP?

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Surprise! I’m a Real Person

Students are surprised to learn there is a real person behind the Grammar Girl podcast.

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The Rise of “Schadenfreude”

File this under “random things I do.”

I read an offhand comment somewhere that “schadenfreude” (a word from German that means to take joy in other’s misfortune) had seen a jump in use in the late 1990s, and I wanted to see if that was true.

The chart above is the log of the number of times each word turned up in a Google News search for that specific year. This is clearly a small sample and not scientific, but I tried to use words that were similar in that they described a feeling, and I wanted to include positive and negative feelings to control for possible broad changes over time in the sentiment of news writers or the country. I used a log scale because “schadenfreude” was used so much less often than the other words that I couldn’t see how they tracked together.

My pulled-out-of-thin-air theory is that around the dotcom bust, people started using “schadenfreude” because it felt good to see all those overnight-millionaire 20-year-olds get knocked back down to earth, and then more people were aware of the word and it started being used more regularly as appropriate things came up in the news–Martha Stewart’s insider-trading conviction*, Bernie Madoff’s cancer rumor, and so on.

What do you think?

[Update: Thanks to @StolenDay on Twitter for pointing me to a blog post about “schadenfreude” in The Simpsons, which also led me to a New York Times post about “schadenfreude” usage in the Times. Many people, including that NYT writer, have mentioned the Broadway show Avenue Q, which includes a song called “Schadenfreude,” but Avenue Q didn’t debut until 2003.]

*I stand corrected. Martha Stewart was not convicted of insider trading. According to Wikipedia, she was convicted of securities fraud and obstruction of justice. The schadenfreude still applies.

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My E-Books Are on Sale

My second book has just been released as an e-book, so to celebrate, my publisher has put both my e-books on sale. For just another week or so, you can get THE GRAMMAR DEVOTIONAL e-book for $4.99 and GRAMMAR GIRL’S QUICK AND DIRTY TIPS FOR BETTER WRITING for $4.99. The regular prices are $9.99.

The Grammar Devotional ($4.99 e-book sale)

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nookbook
Apple iBooks

Sony Reader Store

Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing ($4.99 e-book sale)

Amazon Kindle
Barnes & Noble Nookbook
Apple iBooks

Sony Reader Store

I don’t believe the e-books are widely available outside the U.S., and if they are available, they may not be on sale. My publisher says the deals have to be negotiated separately for each country, and they are working on it as fast as they can.

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On Keeping Your Opinions to Yourself

My brother will be looking for a job soon, and so far he’s ignoring my advice to clean up his Facebook profile. The problem isn’t wild party pictures, he’s quite the diligent student, it’s his wild political views. My philosophy is that when you’re selling something, including yourself, you should be as inoffensive as possible. Posting extreme political beliefs guarantees you’ll alienate a big part of your market.

So when I recently ran across this quotation from Mark Twain, I smugly noted that he agreed with me:

Sane and intelligent human beings … carefully and cautiously and diligently conceal their private real opinions from the world and give out fictitious ones in their stead for general consumption. — Mark Twain in Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events
This year is the 100th anniversary of Twain’s death and his autobiography is hitting stores November 15. According to the publisher, Twain left strict instructions that the book “remain unpublished for 100 years [so that] he would be ‘dead, and unaware, and indifferent,’ and that he was therefore free to speak his ‘whole frank mind.'”

In other words, you can think of AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MARK TWAIN as a 100-year-old version of Twain’s uncensored Facebook page (although I’m guessing it’s better written than the average Facebook page).

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For Your Children’s Teachers

THE GRAMMAR DEVOTIONAL by Mignon Fogarty (Henry Holt)

It hit me this morning that it’s already time to think about gifts! Last year a bunch of people got my book The Grammar Devotional for their children’s teachers, and I got a lot of feedback that the teachers enjoyed it.

Although it’s not based on a calendar, the book has 365 individual writing tips, which makes it an especially good book to start in the new year. Think of it as a tip-a-day calendar that isn’t tied to a date, and you get to keep all the pages instead of tearing them off and throwing them away. It also has word-search puzzles, word scrambles, and cartoons.

Here’s an interactive excerpt so you can see what the tips are like.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Passage, Book People, Books-a-Million, Books, Inc., Changing Hands, IndieBound, Joseph-Beth Bookstore, Kepler’s, Macmillan, Politics and Prose, Porter Square, Powell’s, Tattered Cover

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FFP: The Simpsons in the Classroom


It’s easier to engage students when the topic is fun and familiar, and what could be more fun and familiar than The Simpsons? The show has been on the air for over 20 years, so nearly every current student grew up with it. The book focuses primarily on the humanities and has in-depth chapters focused on composition, linguistics, literature, culture and society, and satire and postmodernism. The sample lesson plans and detailed episode list should help teachers quickly find something that will work with specific lessons. It’s also well written and fun to read; I’m not a teacher, but I closely read more than half the book before skimming the rest.

A practical, useful, and engaging book for teachers.

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Passage, Books-a-Million, IndieBound, Joseph-Beth Bookstore, Kepler’s, McFarland, Politics and Prose, Powell’s

What is FFP?

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Can Your Computer Be Too Easy to Use?

A couple of days ago I had to go to a hotel because the water was turned off in my building. I grudgingly left behind my beloved desktop Mac and packed my laptop. I grumbled that I wasn’t going to get any work done.

Surprisingly, I got a ton of work done with time to spare for exploring the resort and going out to a nice dinner. My computer was such a pain to use that all I did was my most necessary work. The stuff for which I have deadlines. I spent very little time on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. I didn’t write any blog posts. It was just too darn hard to type and switch between applications. I did my work and was finished.

I started to wonder whether I should use my clunky laptop all the time, but  my wrists objected. No, I’ll still sit in front of my Mac and tweet and blog and so on, but it was certainly an interesting lesson.

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