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Review: Grammar Girl’s new iPhone podcast interface

I grabbed Grammar Girl’s new iPhone app hot off the presses Wednesday afternoon, eager to see the next step in multimedia grammar presentation.

Mignon Fogarty got her start as a pioneer in podcasting and now also makes good grammar accessible through books, an e-mail newsletter, videos on YouTube, a Web site, and a presence on Twitter. What makes all these venues successful is they’re all Mignon – friendly, unintimidating, and smart.

The app follows the same formula, opening with the familiar Grammar Girl avatar in purple sweater and pony tail. Beyond is essentially access to a year’s worth of Grammar Girl podcasts along with one bonus podcast.

So, primarily, it’s a podcast interface. Click on an episode and listen or download an episode to listen offline. When I clicked on the app on my iPod Touch while waiting for my son to get out of his music lesson, I was told I had no saved episodes. Then, the app quit. But I wandered far enough from the French horn teacher’s house to find free wi-fi from the neighbors, and I downloaded the bonus episode and one other, using 5.3 MB of my iPod’s memory. Now I can listen at my leisure.

I find it useful to have a Grammar Girl podcast interface; others might question paying $1.99 for content that is free from iTunes or the Grammar Girl Web site.

But along with convenience, the value comes in the promised extras. The initial download includes a podcast discussion of “circumnavigate” and “circumvent” (just about any words that sound alike have been confused at some point). Also planned are photos, just for fun, showing grammar and usage issues. The first one shows a creative spelling of “Star Trek” on a Burger King sign. Future extras may include puzzles and whatever other creative enhancements Fogarty and crew dream up.

The app also includes a screen for checking out Grammar Girl’s Twitter feed and a link to the Web site, which is not set up for mobile but is easily navigable on an iPod. The app also has a background play mode, which allows you to work in other apps while listening.

I’m not a reviewer of apps but a fan of useful tools for good writing. Grammar Girl delivers the same sensible advice in a variety of mediums, and an iPhone app is just the latest format. If you’re a regular listener, this is sure to enhance the experience.

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