These Guys Are My Heroes!

This recent article from Reader’s Digest details how Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have made it their business – nay, their calling – to wipe out typos from all public signage. They’ve formed a group called the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) and have traveled around the country correcting editorially offensive signage – now that sounds like my kind of organization!

I doubt they do it as a public service; if they’re anything like me, it’s more of a compulsion than any attempt at re-educating the faultily learned masses. Quite simply: they can’t help themselves.

There’s also – if you can believe it – an Apostrophe Preservation Society – founded by Englander Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (which is a delightfully funny, if somewhat acerbic, read).

According to Beth Quinn, who wrote in the Times Record-Herald of Middletown, NY (several years back) of Truss and her book:

“In her rather militant way, she pickets businesses that have apostrophe errors in their signage. Off she goes with a great big apostrophe on a stick and marches around in front until the business owner is shamed into correcting his punctuation.”

Now all we need is a Society for the Prevention of Hyphen Abandonment. I’ve got this little plastic box sitting on my desk – a box filled with stray hyphens – which I find myself accessing on a more regular basis lately as I read. It seems people just don’t know what to do with their hyphens, so they fling them about all willy-nilly, giddily hoping they’ll land in some functional configuration (appropriately wedged between two parts of a compound modifier, for instance). Sadly, though, that generally isn’t the case and they end up falling into words that should never be hyphenated – like “never-the-less.”

What’s your favorite maligned punctuation? Hackneyed strings of exclamation points employed by hyper-enthusiastic email correspondents? Interrobangs? (Still considered to be non-standard punctuation, the interrobang combines an exclamation point – or “bang” – with a question mark.) The oxford comma? (This is a comma that precedes the “and” near the end of a list of items.)

Let’s hear from you…


2 Responses to These Guys Are My Heroes!

  1. Hyphens – hate them at the end of a line no matter how grammatically correct. I will turn off the hyphenation option in any program I use for document creation. In fact, as a designer, I am so compulsive that I will go in and force a line break to even out the lines to prevent rivers in a block of type.

    Rita: you are so smart about everything to do w/language.
    Certainly, there are some good uses for hypn]hens. I’d like to nominate you for the President of the Society for the Prevention of Hyphen Abandonment.

    My favorite punctuation is the ellipsis…certainly I don’t use it correctly but..I love the implication of an unfinished thought.

    Once, I worked in an office and two different colleagues accused me of writing in a confusing way because I used an ellipsis too frequently for simple interoffice communication. Perhaps, it was difficult for both of them to be supportive and encouraging in any way.

    While researching a recent paper about defining a target market, I found an interesting online tidbit about the first use of the digital emoticon for a SMILEY face. Is this considered punctuation…????—-

    The Carnegie Mellon emoticon:

  2. Rick Flynn says:

    Put me down as a rabid supporter of the interrobang and the oxford comma.

    If memory serves, The Chicago Manual of Style (Kate Turabian) provided a clear explanation of the ellipsis.

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