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Author Ellen Jovin answers the nation’s grammatical dilemmas

New Hope, Pennsylvania — What would you think if you were out walking, shopping or doing some other gerund, and out of nowhere a woman on the street prepositions you — “This is my grammar table.”

You might think, whom is this crazy lady? Who sees grammar as such an imperative that she sets up a table just to talk about it?

“Because I love grammar so much,” Ellen Jovin told CBS News. “It’s the anchor — like right now we’re using words. This wouldn’t even be happening. We’d just be looking at each other.”

As I first reported in 2019, Jovin runs a company training people in business communications. But her real passion is linguistics. So to share her knowledge — and have some fun — Jovin set up her grammar table around New York City, where she lives.

It went so well, she took the table to the collective noun that is America. 

“It’s been so much fun that I’m taking it on the road around the country,” she said. 

Jovin even wrote a book about the experience called, “Rebel with a Clause.”

I caught up with her in New Hope, Pennsylvania, where Jovin reminded people how to diagram sentences, explained when to use who and whom and even answered something I’ve always wondered about — does the period have to go inside the quotation mark or can it go outside, sometimes?

“It always goes inside,” she said. 

But she says her favorite part is settling grammar disputes between husbands and wives.

“In my experience, usually if a couple comes up, usually the woman is right,” she said. “I mean, in my limited experience.” 

She hung me out like a dangling modifier. But you have to love her passion. 

Jovin has visited 47 of the 50 states so far. She said those experiences have proved to her that Americans are way more interested in grammar than some cynical reporters would like you to believe. And she may be right. I mean, a guy at a red light just had to know, then and there, do you always capitalize after a colon? 

“If it’s only a piece of a sentence, definitely no cap,” she told him. 

That made her day. It’s one more proper usage in her never-ending quest to make us all better at wording stuff. 


To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us: [email protected].   


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