We aren't police, of course, but English faculty are often asked questions about grammar the same way police or lawyers are asked questions about law; people want to know if particular sentences are "legal" or not. Most English departments have a Grammar Maven lurking somewhere (usually behind a large stack of books published before 1840) that the rest of us immediately forward questions to....oh, sorry... to whom we immediately forward questions. As a public service, our Grammar Maven is happy to answer your grammar questions (actually, the Grammar Maven is professionally crotchety, and not happy about most things, but we feed him doughnuts for this).

Send in your question by clicking on the "Send in Your Question" link below. Just keep in mind a few points:

  • There is no single "official" grammar of English, and published grammars and dictionaries sometimes disagree on particular points (for example, "maven" can also be spelled (or spelt) "mavin," depending on which dictionary you're using). The Maven spends much of his time complaining about this, wondering why the world doesn't just accept his interpretations.
  • Being a Grammar Maven does not make one a Literature Maven, unfortunately (ours tends to react to Shakespeare by attempting to count verb tenses, which quite misses the whole point, and thinks that the unifying theme of Huckleberry Finn is "the contraction").
  • Whether you need to follow highly formal grammar rules depends on what you are trying to write; a short story set in the Ozark Mountains doesn't need to use the same "rulebook" as a formal business letter or a dissertation. As far as we can tell, the Maven only reads dissertations.
  • The Maven has, to use the colloquial phrase, "an attitude." We're still trying to convince him not to take personally the gradual disappearance of irregular verbs.

Send in your question here