Grammar Pop: The Power of Community

Grammar Pop

Hello to anyone still reading this blog! “Where the heck has she been for more than a year?” you may ask. I’ve been making a word game—an iPad app—called Grammar Pop, and since I made the app myself, I had to learn to make apps, which took awhile.

It took longer than I thought it would, but it was still completely doable, and I’m here not only to tell you about my app, but also to share my excitement about a tool called GameSalad. Because of GameSalad, you can make apps too if you want to. Yes, YOU.

How GameSalad Works

GameSalad is a drag-and-drop tool for making apps (for many platforms), which means that although you need to learn some basic programming logic, you don’t have to learn a coding language. Instead, you combine intuitive commands such as “When the player makes a mistake, subtract 10 points from the score.”

The Community Makes It Possible

This post is subtitled “The Power of Community” because it’s the GameSalad community that truly makes this product shine. It reminds me of the early days of podcasting: Everyone hung out on the forums at Podcast Pickle and was happy to answer technical questions. GameSalad also has active forums with friendly people who are happy to answer technical questions. I’m not sure I could have made Grammar Pop without help from that community. It certainly would have been more frustrating.

Also like podcasting, a whole community of experts and consultants have sprung up around GameSalad. You can find hundreds of YouTube videos with tips about how to use the software. In fact, you can get quite far in developing a simple game just by piecing together the tips in these videos. If you would rather buy an affordable game template and customize it yourself, you can do that, and if you get stuck or just don’t want to spend the time searching for an answer, it’s easy to find an independent paid consultant.

During the past year, I’ve thought a lot about the difference a strong community can make in the success or failure of a technical product or even a whole industry. Without the support of a strong community, I doubt I would have started podcasting and I doubt I would be releasing an awesome game. The Grammar Girl Facebook page is also more vibrant and interesting because of the regular contributors, and a Superstars Writing Seminar I attended a few years ago continues to be valuable because of its thriving private writers community. Start-ups, take heed and foster your community!

You Can Make an App

Starting with no major coding experience and no experience at all making apps, it took me about a year to make Grammar Pop, but Grammar Pop is actually quite complex and about half of that year was spent just writing all the sentences and categorizing each word with its part of speech. If you wanted to make a simpler game or a tip-a-day app or perhaps an interactive e-book, I believe you could do it a lot faster.

You can start by downloading the free version of GameSalad Creator and following along with a few of the “Getting Started” videos in the GameSalad Cookbook at YouTube. I watched nearly all of the videos by a power-user called tshirtbooth (whose account has now been taken over by a GameSalad consulting company called GS Helper), and if you search YouTube for “Game Salad,” you’ll find many more videos.

And now, let me tell you about Grammar Pop.

All About Grammar Pop

Fun Is a Priority

It started as a game I wanted to play myself but couldn’t find. It’s a simple idea—match words with their parts of speech—but the existing iPad and iPhone games I found were far too simple and babyish for me. Making it fun was my first priority. That it is educational and lots of teachers loved it during beta testing was just a huge bonus.

Easy or Hard

The game starts simply with three-word sentences and three parts of speech, but it goes all the way up to 12-words sentences and 11 parts of speech. When you match a word with its part of speech, the cloud pops and makes a happy sound, and sometimes you reveal its silver lining which gives you coins that add to your score. At each level, you’re ranked as a professor, tutor, or student. You can play each level multiple times because the game has more than 14,000 words in the database.

Get the Whole Game Upfront

Deciding on a business model was tough. These days, lots of people are offering apps free but then loading them up with in-app purchases. I find those annoying and also have friends whose kids have racked up hundreds of dollars in in-app purchases, and we don’t want that! So for now, you get the whole robust game for a single $1.99 price up front.

Learn more at or go to the App Store and buy Grammar Pop today.

Posted in social media | Comments Off on Grammar Pop: The Power of Community

Does “Free” Mean “Worthless”?

free app cardI just threw away yet another card from Starbucks that offered me something free. This time it was for an app, but often it’s for a song, and sometimes it’s for a book. This time, I didn’t even bother getting the app.

Between the Starbucks offers and the iTunes free song of the week, I’ve probably downloaded at least 100 songs that I’ve never listened to. My tablet is loaded with free e-books I’ve downloaded and have never read—and likely never will read.

Free: It’s Almost Too Easy

When something is free, it’s insanely easy to click the “download” link or put the card in your pocket, but it also means that you have no investment in consuming the media. No commitment to reading the book or listening to the song. I hesitate to go so far as to say that when I get something free, it’s worthless to me, but I’ll always try the thing I paid for first. If I’ve exchanged money for a book, I’ll feel like I wasted that money if I don’t read the book. If I didn’t pay for a book, nothing is lost if I don’t read it.

Two Success Stories

And yet, there have been times when I actually did read a free book, loved it, and did things that helped the author: I bought more of her books or wrote a glowing review.

I finally started reading The Night Circus when I got a long, free excerpt from Starbucks. “Long” is important. The excerpt was about 1/3 of the book, and I’m nearly certain I wouldn’t have read it if it had been just a single chapter. Certainly, the PR juggernaut around that book also compelled me to actually read the free excerpt. It was at least in part the huge PR campaign that made the free excerpt compelling.

In a more serendipitous example, when I was on vacation this summer, I finally read Apocalypsis, Book 1 from Elle Casey, which I had downloaded free from Amazon at some point. I don’t remember how I heard about it or when I downloaded it, but when I finally had time to read a book, there it was. I loved it, wrote a review, and bought the rest of the books in the series.

What Do You Do?

I can’t be the only person who collects free books, songs, and app and never looks at them. What is your ratio? How many of the things you get free do you actually read, listen to, or use? If anyone knows of a study showing how many books that are downloaded free actually get read, I’d love to see that too. Also, if you’re an author who has tried the “first book free” route, I’d love to hear about your experience. Do you think it helped you get reviews or sell more books?


Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl and the author of 101 MISUSED WORDS YOU’LL NEVER CONFUSE AGAIN. Follow her on Twitter: GrammarGirl.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Does “Free” Mean “Worthless”?

Phoenix E-Publishing Workshop Discount

My friend Evo Terra is putting on an e-publishing workshop in Phoenix on September 17, 2011 (next Saturday!) and is offering a $30 discount to the first 12 people to sign up using the code APOSTROPHE (not case sensitive), making the final price $99. Here is their description of the conference:

This full-day workshop will be held in Phoenix on Saturday, September 17th, and is chock full of information ranging from ePublishing trends to copyright issues to using social media for promoting your work. Yes, you’ll walk away with detailed steps on how to successfully epublish your book. But you’ll also learn how to select the right service provider, what ebook formats to ignore, how to make sure people find your book, as well as proven strategies to build your fan base while still finding time to keep writing!

This isn’t a conference on developing your characters or making your plot more engaging. There are plenty of writing-focused conferences already. Instead, we’re teaching you the the technology, techniques and tactics required to become a self-publisher in the evolving digital world.

Sign up at EventBrite and remember to use the code APOSTROPHE for the discount.

Evo Terra is the founder of and co-founder of FarPoint Media. Co-organizer Jeff Moriarty is the co-founder of ePublish Unum and leader of the Phoenix Social Media Club.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Phoenix E-Publishing Workshop Discount

Well Used: Maudlin

I love finding examples of words used in particularly appropriate ways. In this case, “maudlin” is well used because it was uttered by a nun: “We can’t be maudlin about this.”

“Maudlin” was first used in the early 1500s, and we get the word from the biblical character Mary Magdalene. In medieval art, Magdalene was almost always shown weeping, either washing Jesus’ feet with her tears or weeping outside his empty tomb. People of the time referred to anyone who had a similar weepy look or disposition as “Magdalene.” Over time, the pronunciation became slurred and the spelling changed to “maudlin.”

Mary Magdalene. Maudlin. Nuns. Nice word choice.

“Maudlin” is one of the words in my forthcoming book, 101 WORDS TO SOUND SMART, due out in November. (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-MillionIndieboundPowell’s)


Posted in WellUsed | Comments Off on Well Used: Maudlin

Twitter Favorites Are Getting More Public

Twitter is making changes to its Web interface that may cause you to rethink how you use the “favorite” feature. A small group of users are seeing the @Mentions tab being replaced with a tab that has your username and a new “Activity” tab, and Mashable says the change will be gradually rolled out to all Twitter users.

The new “Activity” tab is more like a news feed, and you will see, among other things, tweets people you follow have marked as favorites. That’s great, if your favorites are actually your favorites, but if you’re like me, you also use “favorite” to bookmark tweets that you want to deal with later. If so, the change means your followers may believe something you haven’t even read yet is one of your favorite things. It’s time to save those “read later” tweets another way.

Mignon Fogarty is better known as Grammar Girl and the author of 101 MISUSED WORDS YOU’LL NEVER CONFUSE AGAIN. Follow her on Twitter: GrammarGirl.

Posted in twitter | Tagged , | Comments Off on Twitter Favorites Are Getting More Public

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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 [email protected] 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.

AmazonBarnes & NobleBordersIndieBound

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

Posted in book, video | 8 Comments

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?

Posted in FFP Book Review | Tagged | Comments Off on FFP: Content Rules

Surprise! I’m a Real Person

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

Posted in BTG Podcast | Tagged | 1 Comment

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 18 Comments