Thursday, November 12, 2009

Stickers for Grammar Sticklers

New for the holidays: Stickers for the testy grammar nerd in all of us. 

My dear colleague Catherine turned me on to these handy stickers that were designed by a serious grammar nerd, who says: 

Does seeing a sign that reads TRY THEY’RE “SANDWICH’S” send you into a fit of apoplectic rage?

Grammar Nerd Corrective Label Pack to the rescue! Simply select the appropriate corrective label from this affordable, laser-printed collection and prepare to dole out frontier-style grammar justice.

The stickers are available for purchase here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Roomfuls of Letters

Where I work, we don't get handfuls of letters, we get virtual roomfuls. Here's an unedited excerpt of one that landed in my inbox today:

I was appalled at the glaring grammatical error somehow ignored by your Editoial Staff.The title of the artical Roomfuls of Total Strangers......What are Roomfuls? Or should it be Roomsful?

As the copydesk director, I get to answer these queries. Though often a thankless job, it's usually fun, or at least I try to make it so. For this one, I derived a certain amount of pleasure from my response to the rather unlettered and ungrammatical query:

"Roomfuls of Total Strangers" may sound odd to you, but it is grammatically correct. In Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary, the entry under "roomful" cites the following example: "the group is one of the handsomest and most impressive roomfuls-- R.M.Coates."

Thank you, again, for your query. I have to say that I initially winced at your "glaring grammatical error" and misspelling of "artical," then I realized it must have been on purpose. Likewise with "Editoial."

(T-shirt above available at

Monday, November 2, 2009

Baited vs. Bated

"We all pause with baited breath," writes The Secret Agent in this weekend's Financial Times. My dear colleague Jane pointed out this evocative misspelling. 

The correct spelling is "bated breath," from the verb bate, meaning "to reduce the force or intensity of; restrain." In this case, holding one's breath in anticipation.

On his terrific blog World Wide Words, British writer Michael Quinion quotes a lovely kitty ditty that uses the incorrectly spelled phrase: 
Sally, having swallowed cheese,
Directs down holes the scented breeze,
Enticing thus with baited breath
Nice mice to an untimely death.
I hope you all haven't been waiting with baited or bated breath for posts from me. I've been completely consumed with work and personal life lately, but I hope to post more frequently in the near future. In the meantime, send me a message at if you have any burning grammar questions--malodorous or not.