Book Reviews

Fifty Shades of Grammar by Arlene Miller

Fifty ShadesFifty Shades of Grammar: Scintillating and Saucy Sentences, Syntax, and Semantics from The Grammar Diva, Reviewed by Sheri Graves

The Grammar Diva has done it again!

Arlene Miller’s Fifty Shades of Grammar is one of the most easy to understand of all grammar books ever published. Subtitled, “Scintillating and Saucy Sentences, Syntax and Semantics from the Grammar Diva,” this book may be Miller’s crowning achievement, yet it certainly is not her last book on the subject. Fifty Shades of Grammar is Miller’s sixth book on grammar, and I suspect she’s working on a seventh even now.

What Arlene Miller does in her books is simplify the rules. She gives advice on grammar problems that have confounded writers of the English language since, well, forever. And she does so in a way that makes sense. Take, for example, the problem of whether to use who or whom. Her advice: Substitute the words he and him. If he works in the sentence, use who. If him works, use whom.

Why didn’t any of my English teachers from yesteryear explain it that way?

Fifty Shades of Grammar is a compilation of selected posts from Miller’s blog. She began thinking about launching a blog in 2010 while finishing her first book but was stymied by the technical aspects of a blog. So, it wasn’t until early 2013 that she finally started posting weekly on what she christened “The Grammar Diva Blog.”

This book includes 10 blog posts on grammar dating from March 2, 2013 to January 31, 2015; six punctuation posts dating from February 2, 2013 to July 10, 2015; numerous posts about words dating from January 11, 2013 to February 7, 2015; a collection of posts about writing style, dating from March 31, 2013 to June 7, 2015; 10 holiday posts dating from September 21, 2013 to December 26, 2014; five  posts on a potpourri of subjects dating from January 11, 2013 to May 11, 2015; three quiz posts focusing on grammar, punctuation and word usage, dating from August 14 to September 17, 2014, and four more grammar posts dating from January 13 to March 20, 2015.

A retired school teacher, Miller knows her stuff. She presents information in a matter-of-fact way, incorporating humor and gentle persuasion. I was so impressed by her talk at an event at the downtown Santa Rosa Library last Spring, I invited her to speak to the class I teach in memoir writing. She was a huge hit and, thankfully, many students bought her books.

As the owner of three of Miller’s books on how to use the English language, I recommend her work without hesitation. Each of her books is less like a lecture and more like sharing a cup of coffee with her for a friendly conversation. She doesn’t write “down” to the reader but, instead, elevates those who want to learn.

Her five other grammar books are:
• “The Best Grammar Workbook Ever: Grammar, Punctuation and Word Usage for Ages 10 through 110;”
• “The Best Little Grammar Book Ever: 101 Ways to Impress with Your Writing and Speaking;”
• “Correct Me If I’m Wrong: Getting Your Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage Right;”
• “Beyond Worksheets: Creative Lessons for Teaching Grammar in Middle School and High School;” and
• “The Great Grammar Cheat Sheet: 50 Grammar, Punctuation, Writing and Word Usage Tips You Can Use Now.”

The “Grammar Diva” also does writing workshops and presentations and appears at various venues throughout Northern California. Seeing her in person is a delightful experience I’ve had more than once, and I recommend it to others.

Her books are used in secondary schools, including Healdsburg Junior High School, Healdsburg, CA.; Family Life Center, Petaluma, CA., and Central Fellowship Christian Academy, Macon, Georgia. Colleges & Universities using her books include San Jose State University, San Jose, CA.; Mount Marty College, Yankton, SD; Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA; Alverno College, Milwaukee, WI; Quinnipiac University, Hamden, CN; University of California at Davis; and Community College of Baltimore at Catonsville.

It’s difficult to imagine any writer, teacher or student who could not benefit from these books. All are available at and some also are in ebook format. More information is at Miller’s website.

Review by Sheri Graves
Author, “Deep Doo-Doo”
Memoir Writing Instructor for Senior Authors of Santa Rosa

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