Anyone can be a good grammarian

I’m not good with grammar.  When I tell my family that I was complimented for being a good grammarian at my Toastmaster club they howl with laughter.

Most people who fill the Grammarian role in my club make too few observations.  I believe anyone can be a good grammarian with a little bit of guidance.  The biggest suggestion people can benefit from is to learn to look for what people are doing right with grammar.  Below is my collaboration of grammatical guidelines that I am sharing with my club:


1.    Choose a word to match the meeting’s theme before the meeting.  Choose a word that will most likely be used in everyday speech and not simply be an obscure challenge for the day.  Attempt to pick words that are truly rich in meaning and in which members will gladly use in their vocabulary.

2.    Print several copied of the word with at least a 60 point font so it is legible through out the room.  Include a definition that can also be read from a distance.  Letting members know the word before the meeting gives them the chance to work it into their speeches.

3.    Place the word around the room using scotch tape before the meeting starts and be prepared to explain the word, definition, and an example of its use to the club at the beginning of the meeting.

4.    It is your responsibility to keep track of who uses the word throughout the meeting and report on this at the end of the meeting.  Table topics participants must use the word of the day to qualify for being voted on for best table topics.


1.    Find the Good

  • Vocabulary – interesting, enriching words like cathartic.
  • Alliterations – he ate a lot of fatty, feel-good food.
  • Emotion, emphasis
  • Good adjectives (deep, beautiful, puffy, humid, warm, foreboding, blustery, etc.)
  • Word pictures, transitions, puns, word play, metaphors, similes, etc.
  • Use of good words and using words correctly.

2.    Pointing out where to improve

  • Refer to a dictionary for exact pronunciation.
  • Colloquialisms – ya’ll, gonna, wanna, ‘old as the hills’, ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’, etc.
  • Jargon – words hard to understand by those outside the profession or group.
  • Dialect – e.g. New Yorker yelling, “wassa madda wichoo?”
  • Buzzwords and overused words.
  • Disconnected ideas
  • Ineffective wording, misused and misunderstood words and phrases.
  • Tense consistency, active -vs- passive voice, incomplete or run on sentences, etc..
  • Off color or offensive words.

3.    Things to avoid

  • Making someone look bad.
  • Pointing out too many things about one person.
  • “Should” and “shouldn’t” statements.
  • If you can’t explain why something is wrong or give the proper alternative than don’t mention it.
  • “So”, if over used, can be a filler word, but don’t mistake its use as bad grammar.

4.    Tricks of the trade

  • Make general observations and avoid knit picking an individual.
  • Point out the positives over the negatives.
  • Make simple diction suggestions to ESL members instead of attacking their many mistakes.  Consider talking to them in person or writing them a note instead of singling them out before the group.  Compliment their success in English!

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