Wallraff, Barbara 1953–

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Wallraff, Barbara 1953–

PERSONAL: Born March 1, 1953, in Tucson, AZ; daughter of Charles F. (a professor of philosophy) and Evelyn B. (a microbiologist) Wallraff; married Julian H. Fisher (a physician and entrepreneur), April 25, 1992. Education: Antioch College, B.A., 1972.

ADDRESSES: Home—Brookline, MA. Office—Atlantic Monthly, 77 N. Washington St., Boston, MA 02114. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Boston Phoenix, Boston, MA, lifestyle editor, 1982–83; Atlantic, Boston, associate editor, 1983–85, senior editor, 1985–. Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA, lecturer for publishing course; member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel; workshop instructor, speaker, and media guest.

MEMBER: American Copy Editors Society, American Dialect Society, Modern Language Association.


Word Court: Wherein Verbal Virtue Is Rewarded, Crimes against the Language Are Punished, and Poetic Justice Is Done, Harcourt (New York, NY), 2000.

Your Own Words, Counterpoint (New York, NY), 2004.

Word Fugitives, Collins (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor of articles and reviews to magazines and newspapers, including Boston Globe, Vogue, Washington Post, and the New York Times magazine. Also author of "Word Court" and "Word Fugitives," two alternating bimonthly columns in the Atlantic. Editor-in-chief of newsletter Copy Editor: Language News for the Publishing Profession.

SIDELIGHTS: Barbara Wallraff has done for grammar what Miss Manners did for common courtesy. She started working for the Atlantic in 1983, and since then has copyedited nearly every word that has appeared in that publication. In that position, she became notorious for her firm adherence to proper usage. In addition to her editorial work, since 1995 Wallraff has also written "Word Court," a bimonthly column on language for the Atlantic. Here she dons the cap of Ms. Grammar and judges the cases of broken grammatical rules and poor style that are sent to her by her readers. She also writes the column "Word Fugitives" for the Atlantic.

Word Court: Wherein Verbal Virtue Is Rewarded, Crimes against the Language Are Punished, and Poetic Justice Is Done draws on many of Wallraff's "Word Court" columns, but it is more than a mere collection. Lisa J. Cihlar, in a review for the Library Journal, described Word Court as "a written lecture by a great English teacher" as well as a valuable style and usage manual.

In Your Own Words, Wallraff notes that even in reference books, words are not spelled consistently, and various meanings are sometimes assigned to them. She discusses the seven most popular dictionaries and notes her favorite. Wallraff comments on other available sources, such as stylebooks and online reference tools, of which she is an enthusiastic proponent, and notes methods of searching along with her favorite sites. Library Journal contributor Ann Schade concluded that Your Own Words "is a wonderful teaching tool."

In her capacity as a word expert, Wallraff has appeared on various radio and television programs, and for the bicentennial of the Constitution her commentary about its language was featured on National Public Radio's Morning Edition.



Booklist, November 15, 1999, Philip Herbst, review of Word Court: Wherein Verbal Virtue Is Rewarded, Crimes against the Language Are Punished, and Poetic Justice Is Done, p. 587; April 1, 2004, George Cohen, review of Your Own Words, p. 1337.

Kliatt, July, 2005, Anthony Pucci, review of Your Own Words, p. 34.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Lisa J. Cihlar, review of Word Court, p. 78; April 15, 2004, Ann Schade, review of Your Own Words, p. 96.

Technical Communications, November, 2005, David Kowalsky, review of Your Own Words, p. 474.


Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/ (January 29, 2006), brief biography of Barbara Wallraff.

Identity Theory, http://www.identitytheory.com/ (June 27, 2004), Robert Birnbaum, interview with Barbara Wallraff.