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'Grammar Diva' guardian of language

  • Grammar expert Arlene Miller, who teaches English at Petaluma Junior High School, has authored multiple books on grammar. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / PD)

Do you think correct grammar is important?

Everyone who agrees should raise their hand. Looks like me and you could work together on this. It's time to lie down the law on the proper use of language.

OK, if the previous paragraph didn't make you wince at least three times, you need help from the Grammar Diva.

Arlene Miller, Petaluma English teacher and author of “The Best Little Grammar Book Ever” and “Correct Me If I'm Wrong,” created her “Grammar Diva” blog to help people avoid common grammatical mistakes.

“One day I noticed everybody makes the same mistakes — lie and lay, who and whom. People don't know the difference between I, me and myself,” she said. “People want to get rid of 'whom' because no one knows how to use it.”

When anyone proposes simplifying the rules of grammar to fit what people commonly say and write, Miller takes the opposite position.

“Why not just do it right?” she countered. “I'm a grammar hawk.”

So when someone says, “Everyone raise their hand,” instead of “Everyone raise his or her hand,” Miller speaks up.

“I can't stand that one,” she said. “That makes me crazy. Someone told me Webster's Dictionary says it's OK to use 'their' as singular. I don't like it. It's not right. You don't say 'everybody are.'”

At least, no one says that when Miller's around, not without getting a little impromptu grammar lesson.

“If you can't figure it out, then just rewrite your sentence,” she advised.

You might think that Miller's pointed advice on everyday grammatical mistakes would rankle people, but that hasn't been her experience.

“There are a lot of people who really do care,” she said. “The basic reason we have rules about grammar and punctuation is so we can understand each other.”

It helps that Miller has a sense of humor about her mission.

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