Writing Better With Oatmeal

Yes, okay, I admit it. For as casual and conversational as I try to keep my writing, I’m a bit of a grammar geek*. I’m not a cantankerous stickler for a technically perfect phrase, and I’m certainly not exempt from grammatical blunders, but I do put my back into it a little bit. It’s one of the ways I extend a measure of respect to language, along with things like saying “croissant” correctly (I’m not French, but it’s one of my biggest pet peeves). Sure, maybe I go a little overboard sometimes and find myself sitting in silent, festering judgment of misplaced apostrophes. Maybe seeing “alot” shimmering like grammatical polyester on a page makes me want to flick someone’s ear. And maybe it hit just a little too close to home when a college classmate told me, “Caroline, you’d proofread a love letter.” Humph. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

As much as I enjoy the pursuit of grammatical excellence, I recognize it’s not as natural for everyone. Grammar may even be your sworn nemesis. I know exactly how it is — I have the same antagonistic relationship with math. Stupid math, making me feel all dumb. But enough of my issues, back to the point at hand: Grammar isn’t always intuitive, it isn’t always easy and, let’s face it, it’s not generally considered a lot of fun. Or so I thought until I found The Oatmeal.

No, I’m not talking about the heart-healthy, cholesterol-busting breakfast juggernaut; I’m talking about the online persona of Matthew Inman, a 27-year-old web designer, developer and online marketer from Seattle, Washington. He started up The Oatmeal as a place to store his original comics, quizzes and blog postings. He has a lot of funny stuff, much of which is a bit on the salty side (if you catch my drift), but what first drew me to his work was his collection of grammatical comics, which he’s since turned into a four-poster “grammar pack” available for purchase. I love them with the breathless, eyelash-batting adoration only a self-admitted grammar geek can muster. They manage to keep one foot firmly in the realm of instruction, and one in the realm of humor. I don’t know about you, but the simultaneous stimulation of my brain and my funny bone is my favorite way to learn. Given that this blog very often veers into conversations on the mechanics and art of writing, I thought I’d share them, plus a pretty good one about irony, here for your amusement and potential edification.

How To use An Apostrophe - The Oatmeal   How to use a semicolon - The Oatmeal

Ten Words You Need To Stop Misspelling - The Oatmeal   When to use i.e. in a sentence - The Oatmeal

The Three Most Common Uses of Irony - The Oatmeal

And if those don’t tickle your fancy, The Oatmeal has other valuable things to teach you, like 15 Things Worth Knowing About Coffee, 5 Reasons Pigs Are More Awesome Than You, and What your email address says about your computer skills. Some of them are even a tiny bit scientific. Gee whiz, turns out learning can be fun!

Man, I’m craving a bowl of oatmeal after writing this post. Anyone else?

* I fully realize that, by writing a post about my appreciation of good grammar, I am opening myself up to critiques of my own grammatical skills. To that, I say “bring it on.” As they say, if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, right?

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Caroline Sober

Caroline is a senior software developer at Promega. She’s not a scientist, so if you hear her talking about DNA purification or pipetting or current issues in bioprivacy, she’s totally faking it and you should tell her to hush. She is, however, passionate about building useful software, the interactions between people and technology in general, and how social media is changing the conversation between companies and customers. She lives in Madison with her husband, daughter, and 110-pound dog.


  1. Hi Caroline,

    Thanks for the great links. I checked out the “Ten Words…” and laughed quite a bit. I now have a great way to make sure that I spell definitely correctly. It was always one of my sticky words. That has me thinking about oatmeal…

    Melissa Schwandt

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