Many people secretly hate the rules of grammar. They find them arcane and complicated and impossible to remember. They feel that grammar stifles their creativity and sends them back to grade school and that their best intentions will be overlooked because they dangled a modifier or used the word “that” instead of “which.” Moreover, the mere thought of proper punctuation brings to mind the acid sarcasm of our most condescending English teachers.
Although my guest today makes her living by checking grammar at the most prestigious editorial department in the country, she’s the opposite of all that: the kind of woman who’s as comfortable with a bottle of Rolling Rock as she is with the Oxford English Dictionary. A woman who did not flutter into the offices of the New Yorker Magazine on the wings of a legacy, but had jobs as a fungus-checker in a public pool; a milkman; and a night shift worker in a cheese factory. But there was just something about words that enchanted her. She just loved the way language works…and her new memoir may just make you love it too.
Mary Norris, is the author of the bestseller Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen. She grew up in Cleveland and has worked at the New Yorker for 37 years.
The Lowdown with Ira Wood, Tuesdays at 12:30 PM and Saturdays at 5:30 AM on WOMR-FM, a Pacifica Radio affiliate station. Streaming and podcasts on WOMR.ORG.