The Results are in: Read the Winning Entry in ACES' 14th Annual Poetry Contest

The Results are in: Read the Winning Entry in ACES' 14th Annual Poetry Contest

March 4, 2024 By ACES Staff ACES News

A clever limerick about a typo on the Hamlet manuscript has won Leslie F. Miller the 2024 National Grammar Day Poetry Contest, hosted by ACES: The Society for Editing. 

First place: Leslie F. Miller

In a tale by a playwright historic,
A jester from Denmark (not Zurich)
Had always penned "your"
When he'd really meant "you're"
Now we call him, alas, Poor Yorick.

2024 marks ACES’ 14th annual poetry contest in honor of National Grammar Day, celebrated on March 4. 

Thirty-five poems were submitted in response to the call for short poems, and a committee of five judges (see below), led by Mark Allen, secretary on the ACES Board of Directors, spent their Sundays reviewing them. 

"The judges liked Leslie's poem because, as one said, it was laugh-out-loud funny," said Allen. "Plus it was short, which is what we were looking for." 

Inspired by Grammar Girl

Miller had not heard of the contest before she saw a post on LinkedIn, shared by Grammar Girl Mignon Fogarty, who was one of the judges and the host of National Grammar Day. Miller immediately started composing a limerick. 

"I was outside with my kid, and they were upvoting and downvoting my choices," she said. "I followed up with a text to my mom. She approved, but she wanted to change it to 'that ass, poor Yorkick.' I did not agree." 

She landed on a limerick because Fogarty's post mentioned that submissions should be short, such as a limerick or haiku, Miller said. 

"I thought it would be a fun brain teaser. It started with 'There once was a man allegoric,' but 'allegoric' is not a word, and I didn't want to lose for being clever and stupid at the same time. I also had 'yore' in there at some point in the process." 

A lifetime of poetry

Known to her friends as Fuquinay, Miller has been a poet all her life. 

Her chapbook "BoyGirlBoyGirl" was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. The literary agent and author Betsy Lerner called it, "anxious, angsty, and full of longing" and said that Miller finds "the loneliest knife in the drawer and [sharpens] it."   

Her nonfiction book, "Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt," — "It is not a cookbook," she said — was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. 

She's currently working on a full-length poetry manuscript, which she's writing with a little help from her friends. 

"When I was blocked, I started asking friends on Facebook for one word each," Miller said. "I'd stop them at about 20, and I'd make a 20-line poem (or sometimes 40-line or 10-line) using one supplied word per line. The results were so magical that I haven't stopped writing this way and am almost finished with my full-length manuscript, 'Words with Friends.' "

The thrill of victory

Miller works as a health care writer, lives in Baltimore, and likes to make memento moris and lamps with bald vintage doll heads in her spare time. Check out her Substack

In addition to the glory of the title, she will receive a one-year membership to ACES: The Society for Editing and a signed copy of Fogarty's "Grammar Daily: 365 Quick Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl.” In addition, her limerick will be featured on the Grammar Girl podcast. 

Read on for the rest of the top five poems, followed by the honorable mentions. 

Second place: Lucy Grey 

The infinitive split,
defiant and wanting
attention, not to love
madly but to madly love, 
placing emphasis
where the heart 
says it must. 

Third place: Lisa Rinkus

"Ode to a colon"

Dearest colon, you fill the copy with endless possibilities. You whisper
seductively, “Wait! There’s more …” 

I love you so.  

I read the words in the morning light and see you there. Seductively
teasing. Egging me on with promise. Colon, my darling, you are the
perfect punctuation mark for a hopeless romantic. How I wish you were
called something else.  

But my love for you, dear colon, will never wane. Although by any other
name you'd smell much sweeter. Oh, let me count the ways …

Fourth place: Claire Valgardson

A caret adds text that is lacking;
Gold karats provide alloy tracking;
Some people inherit
Gems weighed by the carat;
While carrots and dip are for snacking.

Fifth place: B.A. McRae 

The periods look up to the apostrophes
While the commas come with their own batch of decrees
Exclamation marks know how to end with a wham
And the Asterisk doesn’t give a d*mn

Honorable mentions

John Branning

A diacritic is a glyph.
They’re sometimes used in English if
a word needs accents, squiggles, dots
to get your tongue tied up in knots.

Umlaut, tilde, circumflex
oft show up where one least expects.
Accents, both grave and acute
lend certain words a keen salute. 

One thing’s certain: you won’t be bored
trying to find them on your keyboard.
It’s a pleasure sybaritic
once you type a diacritic.

Mike Olson

A semicolon
Decides not to choose between
Comma and full stop.

Emily Reed

Oh, you mighty semicolon,
How scared of you I used to be. 
All holy and pretentious,
No other mark as grand as thee.
But as I learned about your purpose,
My thoughts began to shift.
And, oh, so suddenly,
My fears began to lift.
You hold a weighty burden
That the comma cannot bear. 
You keep two thoughts together
Like a period wouldn’t dare.
You’re like a simple wedding;
You make two equals one.
You also make lists clearer.
You really can’t be outdone.
So, I see how I was wrong.
I was thoroughly deceived.
I just wasn’t properly taught your ways.
So, now, forgive me, please.
I promise to use you more often
And help the world to see
That there’s no reason to be fearful;
You’re just a rare beauty.

Elizabeth E. Mercier

"The Glorious Grind of Latin Grammar"

She bends the words the proper way,
attending to declensions
and tests us on our endings
with the best of all intentions.
She conjugates and castigates
the use of a wrong tense,
elaborates on how the mood
conveys the proper sense.
She marries adjectives and nouns
in gender, number, case,
and reminds us of the locative
when speaking of a place.
Her uses of the ablative
line up like servant men:
Separation, Agent, Accompaniment,
Means, Manner, and Time When. 
The dative is for objects
that are rather indirect.
The genitive's possessive -
'whose,' not 'who's,' is correct.
The accusative is for the noun
the verb will act upon.
The vocative's used in missives:
"My dearest Uncle John..."
Periphrastics, participles,
gerunds, and supines,
most have been invented
to muddle little minds.
And the sequence of tenses
is sure to aggravate,
as she boldly barks imperatives:
"Try again!" and "Concentrate!"
She's marched us through a thousand drills
and taught the wars of Caesar,
and still we're trying awfully hard
to satisfy and please her. 
We've declined nouns,
we've parsed more verbs,
made adjectives agree,
and oh, how very thrilled we'll be
to pass Latin with a "C"! 

Elizabeth Stack

"Language Lives"

I often have to stop myself before I write the word grey.
I often have to remind myself of the American way.
That I need to write the word as gray in my English today.
And if I forget, grammar check will correct and republish.
Which often makes me wonder whether I was at some point British?

Did I colour in the nursery centre while my parents laboured?
This intuition was somewhat confirmed, I dare theorized 
Since I also struggle with the word surprize, surprise!
Does this mean in past lives, I may have been English?
Not to be oddish, maybe even the more archaic Middle English?

Would explain how I aced The Canterbury Tales in college
rolling off my tongue, laughing with my naughty bits knowledge.
So I reckon I lived before, a long time ago, well before Yiddish,
in some time and place where perhaps I spoke Middle English.
This may possibly be -  or mayhaps I am just being ghoulish? 

Big thanks go to the contest organizer and five celebrity judges, who sorted through all the entries in a tight timeframe to decide on our winners:

Mark Allen, contest organizer, is an editor, consultant, and teacher with 35 years professional experience working with words. He has spoken about copy editing for private companies and at conferences, workshops, and webinars. He hosts a regular Zoom chat on all things lexical, That Word Chat, and serves as secretary on the ACES: The Society for Editing's Board of Directors

Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl, is five-time winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards and author of seven books about language, including the newly retitled and rereleased, “The Grammar Daily.” 

Barbie Halaby (she/her) launched Monocle Editing in 2008 after six years editing at a traditional publishing house. A longtime active member of ACES and the EFA, Barbie enjoys working with editors new to the industry.

Lisa Johnson is academic chair of the English and world languages departments at Casper College in Wyoming. When not correcting grammar on student papers, she is taking a break with a beloved poet.

Alysha Love is owner of Payette Media House, an editorial agency with journalistic roots, and Alysha Love Coaching. She's also an adjunct professor of media writing at Boise State University and serves as treasurer on the ACES: The Society for Editing's Board of Directors

Jay Waters is retired from a career in advertising, except to teach advertising strategy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He is winner of the 2023 ACES National Grammar Day Poetry Contest.

ACES: The Society for Editing

ACES: The Society for Editing is the nation’s leading organization of editing professionals, educators, and students. Founded in 1997 by copy editors, ACES is dedicated to improving the quality of the written word and the working lives of editors. It sets standards of excellence and gives a voice to editors in journalism, government, business, publishing, and beyond through top-notch training, networking, and career opportunities. ACES hosts an annual in-person conference and, since 2022, an annual virtual conference. ACES Academy hosts monthly webinars. ACES also offers certificates in editing, which it co-hosts with The Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism. 

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