I had the great pleasure of attending a lecture and book signing this evening by Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl.
For those of you unfamiliar with her work, two years ago she began her weekly 5-minute grammar podcast as a hobby and quickly saw it explode on iTunes. Today, she has an average of 800,000 listeners a week. As the Wall Street Journal said:
"So why does the show consistently rank in
the top 40 podcasts on iTunes? The show is well produced. . . .
‘Grammar Girl’ found a narrow niche that a surprising number of people
are interested in."
So who gives a hoot about grammar?
If the audience tonight is any indication, it is a cross-section of book lovers, teachers, schoolchildren, businesspeople and just about anyone who is hungry for an accessible, fun, knowledgeable 21st century writing guru who can answer their pesky grammar questions.
I wish you could have all been at the event to hear the reactions to some questions:
Audience member: "What is wrong with where are you working at?"
Rest of audience: GASP! (As if the question were "Why is it wrong to beat people over the head and steal their money?")
Audience member: When do you use who and when do you use whom?
Rest of audience: Collective murmur of appreciation (As if the question were "Can you explain definitively if there is life after death?)
Audience member: What are your views of the word "irregardless?"
Rest of audience: Gasp of horror (As if the question were "Should we elect Ann Coulter President?" at a Young Democrats convention)
But perhaps my favorite moment was a question from a young boy in the audience who said
"My teacher made me visit your website, and I didn’t even know you had a podcast. Once I found it, I became a regular listener. My question is What is the proper use of a semicolon?"
Which young boys care about the proper use of semicolons? Damn cool ones, apparently. After she answered his question, he said "To bug my teacher, I always misuse "me" and "I." It drives her crazy."
A boy who pesters a teacher with intentionally misused grammar instead of whoopee cushions is welcome in my classroom any day.
The best brand meets a need in a clear and simple way
What Mignon demonstrates so well is how to build an enthusiastic, tuned-in audience by matching a great market need (focused, enjoyable education about writing) with simple and accessible social media tools like blogs and podcasts.
This platform has led to lots of media exposure (The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Oprah) as well as a book deal which resulted in her just-released Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.
This video is another example of a great use of simple and pervasive technology that makes me feel like I know her, even though I just shook her hand for the first time this evening. Notice how well she communicates about what she does, without sounding like a nauseatingly lame elevator speech.
Her presentation was a great way to spend an hour, and it really got me fired up for my own book tour next Spring. Great work Mignon, I can’t wait to see what comes next! (Since this post is on grammar usage, now I wonder if I should have capitalized "Spring." Ideas?)