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Interview—Meredith Forrester, author of Okay But (a zine about correcting Trump’s tweets)
Written by Kane Daniel — 15th March 2017
Meredith zine

Meredith!

I enjoy reading tweets by my colleague Meredith Forrester; you can find them at @mdforrester. The sum of what Meredith knows about English grammar, punctuation, style and usage barely fits inside an encyclopædia of English grammar, punctuation, style and usage. She’s been straight-up giving President Donald Trump the business on Twitter. Not with hot-takery and inchoate outrage (see: the rest of my feed). Instead, she uses the power of grammar to copyedit the most powerful man in the world down to size. I took some time away from my important work (pretending to work while looking up exotic skin disorders on Wikipedia) to talk to her about it.

Okay. Want to do this interview? Let’s do it on Slack.
Okay.

Okay. INTERVIEW TIME. FIRST QUESTION.
HELP

At what point did you realise you liked Donald Trump enough to help him improve his written English?
I didn’t. Wrong. I do not like Donald Trump.

Oh. Sorry. It seems like a lot of the work you do is to help people and improve the way they communicate. How is this different?
Well, I can’t argue with that. He does need help with his communication skills, as Mr ‘C or C plus’ himself admits. I suppose the big difference between this project and my other work is that he’s the most horrible person. I wanted to #resist and I thought that tweeting his grammatical blunders back at him would be enjoyable. Perhaps he will learn something; perhaps his eggs will. I’m under no illusion that he’ll suddenly master the art of properly joined sentences.

Wait a minute. Let’s circle back. What exactly is it you’re doing?
I’ve been quoting Trump’s grammatically iffy tweets and offering him suggested fixes in 140 characters. My zine comprises screenshots of most of those tweets alongside longer explanations that are limited by the page grid. It’s not exhaustive and I’m not a pedant; I want to explain his grammatical issues in a way that anyone, even the president of the United States, can understand.

If you went back of the envelope, what percentage of his toots incorporate a serious grammatical error?
Interestingly, it’s not as many as you might think. He has a lot of minor punctuation and style errors (I assume because he’s tweeting on the fly, and I hate calling them ‘minor’ because punctuation is important and style consistency is everything), but his major grammatical issues aren’t as bad on Twitter as they are when he spews word salad out of his mouth. I suppose the short character length suits his short train of thought. Sticking to one thought in a tweet is easier than sticking to one thought in a speech—apparently. Percentage-wise, for seriously broken construction, not counting seriously painful punctuation mistakes, I’m going to say 25 to 30.

What’s been his biggest groaner since you started doing this?
‘SEE YOU IN COURT, THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE!’ That’s a comma splice. What a riot.

I pore over Donald Trump’s Twitter in a way that will—most likely—end up inflicting me mental harm. While observing his feed, I’ve noticed that he’s used textual dashes in lieu of hyphens in a few toots.
You’re right: sometimes he’ll type three hyphens as a textual dash, and sometimes he’ll use an unspaced em dash. We know that his tweets are sent from different phones (or were in the campaign days), and it’s been interesting to note which tweets use which mark. I’ve concluded that the pre-written tweets—from either his fingers or aides’—are the em-dash ones, and the inconsistent mess of hyphens is his own fault. Speaking of noticing patterns, he always tweets ahead of a cable-news interview, and he’ll always finish those announcements with ‘Enjoy!’.

I’ve noticed that as well and it always makes my toes curl. It’s as if he thinks his gift of an interview is an act of enormous largesse. Gross.
It is gross. He’s a gross man.

What is the most nightmarish scenario you can imagine Donny generating via a Twitter goof?
Well, we already know that his past words and tweets, and those of others, are being or will be used against his administration in court cases. It’s hard to imagine a nightmarish situation because it’s easy to imagine a nightmarish situation, if that makes sense. He’s woefully unqualified, undiplomatic and self-absorbed, and he doesn’t care about his responsibility or the actions and reactions he incites. I don’t want to get too political. This would be a great question for the first lady; I’ll stick to suggesting he reconsider his use of the passive voice.

The passive voice is not enjoyed by you?
If employed in an appropriate context, it can provide an elegant solution. Otherwise, let’s rewrite.

Although I don’t enjoy you chiding the hero who will make America great again, I concede that roasting people using their own words is pretty funny. And, in this case, it’s educational to boot. You know what? I’d probably buy a zine full of such stuffs. Will I ever be able to do such a thing? And if so: how?
Yes, Pork Chop! I thought that was what we were talking about: the zine I’m making that’s full of such funny and educational stuffs. You’ll be able to buy it from our stall at the NGV Melbourne Art Book Fair 2017, which runs from Friday 17 to Sunday 19 March. After that, if I print and collate and staple enough copies, you’ll likely be able to find it on the internet, either in The Good Copy’s online shop or on its own site, if I make one.

That sounds great. Readers please note that all proceeds will be donated to Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign fund. MAGA!
WRONG.

Okay But will be making its debut at the NGV Melbourne Art Book Fair, 17–19 March. Come and find our stall!