Colloquials and Other Grammar Hazards

Which is harder to believe—that some people revel in grammar and make a career out of it or that others, like me, appreciate that they do? Two of my favorites are Grammar Girl (aka Mignon Fogarty) and Charles Harrington Elster, author of The Accidents of Style. I listen to the former’s podcast weekly and refer to the latter’s book regularly.

I recently came across a bit of grammarian horn-locking. Elster’s book is filled with colloquial misuses and their origins. Case in point: “fills the bill,” not “fits the bill.” And Elster points out the Fogarty got it wrong in her book, Grammar Girls Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing: “English currently lacks a word that fits the bill.”

Elster goes on to cite another work (The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson) that explains why it’s “fills” and not “fits.” Theatrical companies in the 19th Century would post handbills prior to stage performances on which the star’s name was prominently featured, to the exclusion of other actors in the show. Hence, he or she “filled the bill.”

Interesting, but you may be thinking, “Should I worry about this? I have a business to run.”

Exactly. You’re better off focusing on your core competencies and the talent you bring to your own business. By outsourcing your written communication (copywriting, blogs, website content), you can leave the grammatical worry to me. Contact me, and I’ll provide the “right word for you.”

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