I Bet I Can Do A Grammar Post That Won't Bore You Senseless

Grammar’s dull. Sorry, but it is.

Grammar Nazis are dull people, and a maniacal love for even the most spurious of rules makes your writing even duller. And gets you into arguments with your talented, handsome grandson.

So what’s a copywriter to do? We can’t ignore grammar, because it ensures a message is clear. But it’s so, so, so dull.

So I set myself a challenge. A post about grammar that won’t bore you senseless. Here’s the stakes. If you’re bored by it, you get to tell me I’m boring on Twitter. If you find it interesting, you have to tell everyone that I’m great. Links will be provided.

Let’s begin.

Hyperbolic Numerals Are Nonsense Words With Their Own Grammar

Quick question.

Which of these numbers is bigger?

A zillion?


A kajillion?

It’s obviously a kajillion, isn’t it? That is most definitely the bigger number.

How many zeroes in a kajillion though? Exactly the same as in a zillion.


They’re not even real numbers, but somehow as a society we have decided that made up numbers (hyperbolic numerals, if we’re being posh) have a consistent scale and grammatical rules.

Here they are.

  1. The numbers are always listed in ascending order of size. The scale is determined entirely by grammar. If you say a “zillion, jillion, fillion,” zillion is the smallest number. But if you decide to say “a fillion, jillion, zillion” then suddenly zillion is top of the pile, king of all numbers. With these made-up numbers, grammar trumps maths. So suck on that, maths teachers.
  2. There’s an exception to the above (because grammar always has to have exceptions). A number with the prefix ba-, ka- or ga- is always higher than one without. A bazillion is bigger than a jillion, even if you say there are a bazillion, jillion reasons to hire a copywriter.

There you go. Now the next time that you’re in an argument with a small child, you can always trump them. Get your number in later, and throw a ba- or ka- in front of the word you make up. And when in doubt, turn it up to eleventy-stupid.

For more awesomeness on hyperbolic numbers, listen to the lovely Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist.


You Can Write a Grammatically Correct Sentence With Four Keystrokes

Not convinced?

I am.

Ok, that was five if you count the full stop, but still. It just goes to show that grammatical accuracy doesn’t need to go on and on and on and on at length.

It’s fine to be brief, folks. Fine to be brief.


Adjective Order is English’s Secret Rule

Another quick question for you. Which of the following sentences is correct?

The clever, handsome, young, tall, Salfordian copywriter.


The Salfordian, tall, handsome, young, clever copywriter.

Both are factually accurate, but there’s definitely something wrong with the second sentence.

It doesn’t follow English’s secret rule that determines the order of adjectives. You know that instinctually even though none of us are ever formally taught it.

We just all know how it works.

In English, adjectives are always written opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose-Noun.

That means you can have a beautiful small new sleek red carbon fibre racing car. But if you switch that order round at all you sound like a berk.

Don’t believe me?

Small new sleek red carbon fibre racing beautiful car.

Beautiful small sleek red carbon fibre new racing car. 

Beautiful carbon fibre small sleek red racing car. 

Horrible, horrible sentences.

You might have started this post thinking that you’re rubbish at grammar, but those three sentences have proved that you’re actually just as instinctively aware of the rules of language as any red pen wielding maniac.

Interesting, Huh?

So, did learning the secrets of the zillion, uncovering the hidden structure of English and getting the answer to a pub quiz question entertain you? Or is grammar still dull and boring.

Time to vote.

Andrew, you're a boring, boring man.Click To Tweet
Andrew, you were right! Grammar isn't boring!Click To Tweet

If you’ve got a fun bit of grammar trivia, drop it into the comments section, or tell me on Twitter.

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