Fogarty began "Grammar Girl" in the mid 2000s after seeing professionals struggle with grammar, and it soon was thriving. (Illustration by Jesus Acosta)
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Fogarty began "Grammar Girl" in the mid 2000s after seeing professionals struggle with grammar, and it soon was thriving. (Illustration by Jesus Acosta)

The New York Times’ best-selling author and podcast phenom talks grammar, the grind and building an empire.

Mignon Fogarty created the Quick and Dirty Tips podcasting network with one goal in mind: to help people do things better, across all spectrums, from health and fitness to parenting and relationships. Fogarty has created a team of experts who specialize in the subject area they produce to share advice, specialized knowledge and useful tips to those who want to do the things they spend so much of their time doing, better.

Fogarty has also published seven books on writing, including the New York Times’ best-selling “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing,” taught as a journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, and continues to produce her podcast “Grammar Girl,” where she shares her expert knowledge on grammar tips and how to become a better writer. Fogarty has also made her appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show” and has been featured in multiple newspapers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post. You can learn much more about Mignon Fogarty and “Grammar Girl” here.

The real question is, how does she do it all, and where did it all begin? Fogarty agreed to answer a few questions I had about how she created “Grammar Girl,” how she has accomplished all that she has and what the future for her podcasting network look like. Here’s what she shared.

Gracie Riley: As the creator of Quick and Dirty Tips, producer of “Grammar Girl” and a New York Times’ best-selling author, how do you manage it all? What are some of the major milestones throughout your career that have gotten you to where you are at now?

Mignon Fogarty: For the first few years, I just worked until I dropped every day, but over time, I developed processes that helped me be more efficient, brought in people to help and ultimately realized that even then I couldn’t do it all. I actually quit my job as a professor a little over a year ago to focus on Quick and Dirty Tips and “Grammar Girl.” That alone is a full-time job.

Some of the major milestones for me personally were publishing my first book, “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing,” which became a New York Times’ best-seller; being nominated for an Audie Award for my the audiobook version of that book, which I narrated; being a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “The Today Show” as a grammar expert; and being inducted into the Podcasting Hall of Fame.

For Quick and Dirty Tips, reaching 300 million downloads for all our podcasts is a mind-blowing milestone, and every time we launch a new show it’s a big milestone. I’m so proud of all the people at Quick and Dirty Tips who’ve made that all happen — the employees and the hosts, producers, artists, and developers … everyone.

GR: What was your inspiration for starting the Quick and Dirty Tips podcasting network?

MF: Before Quick and Dirty Tips, I did a lot of editing work for scientists, and I saw my clients making the same mistakes over and over again — little things, such as using “which” when they should use “that” or misusing a semicolon. I love technology and podcasting was a new fun thing, so I decided to do a quick, simple writing podcast — “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” — because I saw that there were so many people who needed writing tips, and I wanted to share all the interesting language tidbits I discovered while I was writing and editing.

“Grammar Girl” immediately took off; it was No. 2 on iTunes within six weeks. Because I had been an early employee at a few dotcom start-ups in Silicon Valley, I quickly realized the show could be the anchor for a network of podcasts on different topics with a similar scripted, quick-tip format. I recruited podcasting hosts for other shows, such as “Money Girl” and “Mighty Mommy,” and by 2007 I had grown the network to six shows and partnered with Macmillan to make it even bigger.

GR: In light of the podcast reaching almost 300 million downloads, what do you believe are the key features about Quick and Dirty Tips that makes it so popular?

MF: To be successful in the media, you need to be either educational or entertaining, and it is best to be both. That is what we aim to achieve.

The podcasts are short and fun, and I think most important, they always give you information you can use to make your life better, more efficient or happier.

Finally, our hosts are all experts in their topics, and each show is professionally edited by both a developmental editor and an audio producer, so when you hit play on a Quick and Dirty Tips podcast, you know you’re getting good information you can trust that is going to be easy on your ears.

GR: Many of the writers at Study Breaks are English and/or Journalism majors in college. As one of them, I have found the writing and grammar segments of Quick and Dirty Tips to be full of grammar, writing rules and tips that don’t seem prevalent in the classroom. Why do you believe these are so essential, and without them, what does it do to our ability to write and communicate well?

MF: I was an English major, and when I started working as a professional writer, I was stunned by all the little rules and styles I didn’t know. I was looking up things multiple times a day in the AP Stylebook or The Chicago Manual of Style. There isn’t enough time in school for professors to teach you everything you’ll need to know once you’re working, and often, it seems like we all assume that by the time students get to our class, someone else has taught them basic writing skills, especially if they are English or journalism majors.

You can certainly communicate without knowing every little rule, especially if you make the effort to look up things as they come along, but if you want to be a professional writer, you’ll likely be honing your skills for the rest of your life. I feel like I’m a better writer than I was five years ago, and at that point, I was a better writer than I had been five years before that.

GR: As college students who are coming face to face with many of the struggles of adult life, so many different categories of Quick and Dirty Tips would be useful to us. BUT if you had to pick one, which Q & DT column would you recommend, and why?

MF: It’s a tough choice, but if I had to recommend one show to college students, I think it would be “The Get-It-Done Guy.” His practical tips and deep insights will set you up for a well-balanced and successful life.

Every time I talk with Stever (the host), I come away feeling both inspired and like I have a new trick to try. To this day I carry around some of the ideas he gave me years ago, especially the concept that you should embrace efficiency to enjoy life more, not to just work more.

GR: What is your favorite category of “Grammar Girl” to cover, and why?

MF: I love writing about quirky word origins, like the surprise I got when I discovered that the roots of the word for the type of match you use to light a fire go back to a word that describes snot!

It’s the sort of gee-whiz-isn’t-language-cool stuff that I slot in between the more straightforward writing rules that make the show fun. I like to think that I’m teaching people how to write better and giving them something to talk about at parties.

GR: What are your future goals for the Q&DT podcasts?

MF: “Grammar Girl” has been a weekly show for more than 10 years, but very soon we plan to start doing two shows a week and including more interviews, so I’m excited about branching out a little more.

With Quick and Dirty Tips, we’ve been focusing on making the shows we have as strong as they can be and creating a sense of community and engagement with our listeners. For example, we’re getting ready to take listener calls and play them in the podcasts (something we actually did very early on, but haven’t done for years). I also hope that we’ll launch another show or two in the next year.

With all that she has accomplished, Mignon Fogarty isn’t finished yet; by February, Quick and Dirty Tips will reach 300 million downloads, and will only grow more popular as she launches more shows and begins to produce more.

As a college student growing accustomed to the adult life and all that will come with it post-graduation, the personal experiences and advice that Fogarty shared is extremely encouraging. It’s important to realize that real success and fulfillment do not come without hard work, all-nighters and a little sacrifice. Because of this, Fogarty is now an accomplished author and has done something incredibly difficult: bring together a diverse community of people with incredibly different interests who are all seeking advice on how to do the things they do better.

For more expert advice on health and fitness, house & home, parenting, relationships, education, money & finance and more, tune into the Quick and Dirty Tips podcasting network, or visit their website here!


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