How to be the Grammarian in Toastmasters

The role of Grammarian is probably the least understood role in a Toastmasters meeting. So why do we do it and how do we prepare for the role?

The Grammarian gives feedback on our use of language – praise for our wonderful rhetoric as well as encouragement to overcome bad habits like saying umm, err  and OK.

You will benefit from taking on the role because you have to listen carefully and be prepared to comment on what you have heard. The mission of Toastmasters is to help us learn the art of speaking, listening and thinking. The Grammarian role helps you become a better listener.


The Competent Communicator Toastmasters manual describes the responsibilities on page 68 and 69. There are two main purposes – Introduce new words (Word of the Day) to members and to  comment on the use of English during the course of the meeting. Let’s explore the different parts of the role:

Word of the day

Before the meeting, choose a word of the day. It should be a word that will help members increase their vocabulary as well as easy to incorporate into everyday conversation. Hopefully it will be a word that improves your communication skills.

Adjectives are a good choice – If someone said the restaurant was good what does that say to you? Was the cuisine authentic and fresh? Were the waiters pleasant, courteous or attentive?

Also consider verbs to help us enrich our vocabulary. For example, instead of saying “I left the room” observe the differences in meaning betweeen “I raced out of the room” and “I crept out of the room”.

During the meeting take note of who used the word of the day and how it was used.

During the Meeting

Listen carefully to the speakers’ word usage and take notes. Make sure you have plenty of  paper and a pen available as well as the Macquarie Dictionary (our club has a copy) .

Write down any awkward usage of English. You may need to refer to the dictionary to check meaning or pronunciation. Make notes for presenting in your report.

Word of the Day. Nnote who used it and comment on how it was used.

Filler Worlds.  Keep note of who said umm, Ah, OK and other filler words. There is a Toastmaster role called Ah-counter but we have incorporated this role into Grammarian. Sometimes speakers aren’t aware of saying these words and this is where your feedback is useful. Keep a tally so when you give your report, you can say “Charles said three Umms and one OK”.

Rhetorical Devices

Take note of of rhetorical devices used by speakers. For those of you who have bad memories of English at school and can’t tell the difference between a metaphor and a malapropism refer to the notes linked at the end of this article.

Rhetorical devices add vitality and color to your speeches and help you make more more impact as well as pleasurable to listen to. There are many rhetorical devices and I only have time for a few examples.

Rhetorical devices built on sound add a colourful poetic flavour to your speech.

Alliteration repeats the same sound at the beginning of nearby words – What my Wife Wanted.

Assonance – repeats the same vowel sound in nearby words – How Now Brown Cow.

Rhetorical devices involving repetition of words include anaphora – where a word or phrase is repeated in successive clauses or sentences. In his Stanford Commencement Speech of 2005 Steve Jobs said Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

There are rhetorical devices which change word meanings.

Metaphor is when two unconnected things are compared – Life is a Highway. 

Similes are the same as metaphor but using the words like or as Forrest Gump said Life is like a box of chocolates.

Don’t feel overwhelmed! You don’t have to report on every rhetotical device. Just pick one or two examples of what you heard in the meeting and comment on them.

Presenting your report

The final part of your role is to present your report usually in 2 or 3 minutes.

Briefly explain the role of the Grammarian so the audience knows why you are speaking.

Report on the use of Word of the Day, naming the people and comment on their usage. Report on the Ums, Ahs and other filler words by giving a count for each person. Then report on the language which you heard.

The role of Grammarian is both rewarding and educational and will help you become a speaker as well as a better listener.

Volunteer to be the Grammarian at a meeting, learn and grow.

Further information

Speaking and Presentation Skills
“Your guide to becoming a confident and effective speaker”

Rhetorical Devices

More Rhetorical Devices

Grammarian Role Guide (PDF file)

Steve Jobs “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” – speech analysis and YouTube link

Speech Analysis – I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King – speech analysis and YouTube link


6 responses to “How to be the Grammarian in Toastmasters”

  1. The Filler Words are often reported by the Um-Ah Counter which is a dedicated meeting role.

  2. Very thoughtful and thorough analysis of the role of Grammarian. I would like all our club members to read this before taking on the role.

  3. Hello there,

    Do you grammar check your blog?

    I’ve discovered 25 grammatical mistakes.

    Best regards,

  4. Very insightful and an effective guide to perform the role of a grammarian.

  5. Thanks for this insightful and easily understood explanation of the role of the grammarian.

  6. Thank you for the insightful and practical explanation. I am too eager to apply what I have learnt

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