Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Review: The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson

As soon as I saw the title of this book, I knew I had to have it. I'd heard about Mr. Deck and TEAL (Typo Eradication Advancement League) a year or so ago and heard the book was coming out, but there was a big gap. Now I know why! I had also heard about this in the news so I don't think I'd giving away any big spoilers, but the authors were cited for changing a sign at the Grand Canyon, and it's illegal to make any changes (aka, commit vandalism) on federal property. Understandably, the case (as well as the sentence which included a 1-year gag order) slowed down the book a little, but that doesn't hurt it at all, except possibly in publicity.

Pretty much as you'd expect, it's the story of two guys driving around the country correcting incorrect signs where they can. I was glad that they noticed it was mostly the mom-and-pop shops that are the offenders, and they concluded they were being helpful to these establishments who don't have the resources to have copyeditors like big chains (mostly) do. I worried they wouldn't ever mention that they were kind of picking on the little guys. But just because a store is independent, doesn't mean grammar doesn't count.

Mid-trip, Mr. Deck has a crisis of conscience, wondering if he ought to be the arbiter of grammar, and if he should just live-and-let-live. I was glad when Mr. Herson rejoined him and got him back on the grammar correction bandwagon. Sure, some things like the serial (or Oxford) comma are debatable (I am pro-serial comma), but other things (such as the correct position of the apostrophe in the phrase "Womens' clothes" are not. That is wrong. And yes, errors should be corrected when possible. Why? Because perpetuating poor grammar doesn't help anyone. It's not cute or quaint. It can be really funny (as fans of Apostrophe Catastrophes and the Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks can attest) but it's never a good thing. Kids learn to read from signs (my Mother figured out I could read at age 3 - where she'd previously thought I'd just memorized books I seemed to be reading at home - as I read street signs out of the car window when we drove around town.) As an admitted Grammar Nazi, I was completely on board with their plan. I sympathize with Mr. Deck's reluctance to confront store personnel about mistakes, but as well-proved by the National Park incident, that was always the best course of action.

It was a fun travel book, filled with absurd characters (the women in the educational store really infuriated me) and atrocious examples of spelling and punctuation. Initially I had the ARC of this book, but I just couldn't bring myself to read a book about typos that might itself have typos in it, so I waited until I got the finished book. I'm sure I'll think of them the next time I see "Todays Special's."


Jenny said...

This part made me LOL:
"but I just couldn't bring myself to read a book about typos that might itself have typos in it" hehehe

I got this book for my sister for her birthday (she's the same as you when it comes to grammar) and I'm glad it sounds so good! Except now I want to read it!! LOL I'll have to borrow it from her...

B said...

This sounds like a really fun book! I love the idea of acting as the grammar police across the country. Also, I am anti-serial comma, but we can still be friends :)

Carin Siegfried said...

@Jenny - I've been known to read books before giving them as gifts! Just be careful to not break the spine, and not to eat or drink while you're reading.

@Brenna - you must be an adherant of the AP Stylebook! Personally, I'm Chicago all the way. But we can agree to disagree! :)

adrenalin said...

Have I died and gone to heaven? I thought I was the only one who cared about spelling and the use of punctuation marks. But, let's be honest about this project. They're usually not typos which are inadvertent errors, they're usually misspellings.