Podcasts on Writing, Language, and Humanity

As the fall semester winds down, we find ourselves in a season that, for many, involves quite a bit of travel. My own journeys back and forth and hither and thither this year have been peppered with some fantastic podcasts, so I’ve decided to compile a few here for intrepid adventures braving skies and roads in need of some writing center-related content to fill the time.

Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips has to be an informational staple for anyone curious about English writing mechanics. With episodes logging around 10 minutes, you can quickly learn about five fallacies that tend to sneak into our writing or remind yourself how to properly deploy the subjunctive mood. Creator Mignon Fogarty delivers her tips in a straightforward, lecture-hall manner, but moves through interesting content with enough speed to avoid the dreaded podcast drone.

If you’re looking for something a little more invested in language’s relationship to culture (or a podcast with a bit more length), then go no further than NPR’s A Way with Words. In these hour-long episodes co-hosts Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett really dig into the humanity of language whether they’re asking about the socially appropriate use of gendered terms or discussing whether certain phonetic tricks can make words sound beautiful.

The amazing Alice Batt turned me on to this podcast, and I’m either eternally grateful or rather piqued about the hours of time I’m losing listening to it. In The History of English, Kevin Stroud foregoes grammar and usage to delve into the history of English—how did the language itself emerge from its Germanic roots? Where did our most commonly used words come from and how did English spread the way it did across peoples and countries? These episodes hit that sweet spot of 30 minutes: just long enough for a drive and not long enough to keep you rooted in your car when you arrive at your destination.

Allison Langer and Andrea Askowitz’s Writing Class Radio follows a group of students and their teacher as they—I can only say experience—a writing class together. These episodes of around 20 minutes really emphasize that writing is about community, learning, and lots and lots of emotions. More so than the other podcasts on this list, this production has at its heart a sense that writing can really help people since it offers strategies for coping with loss, communicating clearly, and developing your unique voice.

Please feel free to share podcasts about writing that you enjoy in the comments below, and have safe travels this winter season!