Monday, January 31, 2011

Last Monday Book: The Great Typo Hunt

Post by Jenny

It’s the last day of January, and already the year is rolling along. So far, knock on wood, I’m keeping up. I hope you are, too.

This year, I want to read more books about writing, and related subjects, than I did last year. That shouldn’t be too difficult, as last year I read exactly zero books that qualify. So I came up with the brilliant plan to post a book summary on the last Monday of every month. That way, you all can keep me accountable. (And if you could remind me to exercise more often, that would help, too.)

Without further ado, its time for this month’s book.

If you noticed the missing apostrophe in the previous sentence, January’s book should appeal to you. It’s The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time. Distressed by our country’s public displays of poor punctuation and other grammatical goofs, Jeff Deck, an editor “with no off-switch,” formed the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) with his friend Benjamin D. Herson. The goal of these two brave souls was to locate—and correct—such mistakes. Like any noble quest, it required hitting the road.

Armed with sharp eyes and a Typo Correction Kit (correction fluid, chalk, markers), the friends “circumnavigated America, righting the glaring errors displayed in grocery stores, museums, malls, restaurants, mini-golf courses, beaches, and even a national park.” That’s right—not only did they find mistakes, they fixed them whenever they could. In some cases, the correction could be accomplished with a surreptitious swipe of a Sharpie. But many times, it required pointing out the error to an actual human being.

That’s the part that would stop me. Just the other day, I saw a sign in my local warehouse store advertising “Assorted Exercise Video’s.” I was not at all inclined to spend the time and energy required to a) find an employee who might care about the unnecessary apostrophe (but probably not), and b) get said employee to do something about it. (I’m saving my “Excuse me, I couldn’t help but notice…”opener for the day when I can finish the sentence with “…that there’s a rabid wolverine in the women’s restroom.”)

The responses Jeff et al. received ranged from gratitude to complete slacker indifference to a lawsuit over the defacement of federal property. My hat is off to the members of TEAL for having the courage to take a stand against typos. The day we stop caring about proper grammar and punctuation is the day we decide it’s okay to throw gum on the sidewalk or step on another person’s foot without apologizing.

Oh, wait. Maybe we’re already there.

Do you notice mistakes? Have you ever asked to have one corrected?


Kay Theodoratus said...

The "great typo hunt" could be the subtitle of all my manuscripts. But my biggest goof lately was revising the wrong version of a short story manuscript.

Woodswoman d'Italia said...

Ah, fortunately or unfortunately, I too have an editor in my head, one whose switch is never off. I've gently tried to call attention to "avacado", "potatoe", "tomatoe" and "spinash" in restaurants, and usually get a blank look. But I keep trying.

We were in Tucson last week and went to a lovely restaurant, and though I can't remember now, this lovely menu had two misspellings. I did point them out to the wait person. He seemed mildly interested.

Generally, one can't GET to the person who gives a s**t about the spelling. My other crusade is to stop sandwich shops from using the word "paninis" for sandwiches and "panini" for one sandwich. Panino is the Italian word for sandwich (or one of them, anyway); thus panini is the plural. One panino, two panini.

Mad Greens actually did act like they cared, but Fiona's didn't give a whit.

Still, we soldier on. And when I find a misspelling in something I've written and checked three times, I have a strong desire to commit hari-kiri (is that spelled correctly???)

Great post!

Jenny said...

Kay, I've had similar says something about my organizational skills, I suppose.

W. d'I, you should be an honorary member of TEAL. And now I'll think of you every time I see the word 'paninis'!

Patricia Stoltey said...

The mistakes in signs and scrolling news on television and newspaper articles drive me nuts. I should start collecting them for occasional blog posts.

Patty said...

Great post about TEAL--my copy editor heart/red pen cheers them on! Please could you put a period at end of abbreviaton al in et al.? (... Jeff et al. received ....) Thanks!

Patty said...

Oops, and I had my own typo!! Meant abbreviation!!

Jenny said...

Pat, considering your editorial skills, I'm sure you could have quite a collection in no time.

Patti, the period has been added. Thanks for your sharp eye. (I knew someone would find an error in this post!) :-)

bfav said...

At my first job I worked for a management consulting firm. I put together one of the manuals for a team building session, and then sent it to the clients. One of my chapter heads read:

Teams kill

instead of

Team skills

They say there is no such thing as a perfect document. So I look at typos as easter eggs when I'm reading. Some stories are littered.

Jenny said...

Patty, I just realized I misspelled your name in my last comment! I'm blaming our sub-zero windchill for my brain freezes. (But I've been inside all day, so that doesn't really fly.)

Brooke, thanks for sharing your memorable typo. I hope the clients had a sense of humor about it.

Natasha Wing said...

Along with litter, this is my pet peeve! I have sneakily corrected typos on menus. Especially Chinese food menus. (Okay, the more I write "menus", the more it's starting to look funny.)

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