Shackled by ‘apostrophic misunderstanding’

Published 10:58 pm Monday, August 25, 2008

We all remember how tedious grammar was in school. Comma this, apostrophe that. Sure, there were always the too-smart kids that made good grades, but it was impossible for anyone to really be interested in that stuff. Most of us keep that attitude the rest of our lives. Some of us, like your local sports editor, wind up going into a profession in which the written word is more valued.

Somewhere along the way for people like me, there is a point we decide our old English teachers were right: Grammatical correctness is important. Then we begin capitalizing the first letters of sentences in e-mails (gasp!) and using periods in text messages (shriek!). And we see errors everywhere we go.

Apostrophes and quotation marks terrorize me the most. If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen something like, “Enter this way only if your late for class,” or “Wireless Connection will turn off ‘15’ minutes before closing.” If you didn’t notice the grammatical and usage errors in the wording above, which was taken off two real signs, stop reading now because this column isn’t for you.

Before I’m charged with hypocrisy, I’ve made plenty of my own mistakes (there’s probably one or two in this very column). That comes with the job of writing every day and on a deadline. I can assure you, though, that those mistakes were a result of lack of time to check the copy thoroughly or the fatigue of having stared at a computer monitor for too long.

Some people take distaste for grammatical mistakes too far. Take Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson of the “Typo Eradication Advancement League.” The pair pleaded guilty recently to defacing a historic sign at the Grand Canyon, according to The Arizona Republic. Deck wrote about the incident in great detail on his Web site. He and Herson waited for a ranger to move out of sight then fixed a misplaced apostrophe with a black marker and some correction fluid.

“Will we never be free from the shackles of apostrophic misunderstanding, even in a place surrounded by natural beauty?,” Deck asked on his site.

No, Jeff, we won’t. Never.

– Stephen Dawkins is the sports editor for The Clanton Advertiser. His column appears each Tuesday. He can be reached at