In Bristol, there’s a man who hates bad punctuation.
Lots of us do, the difference is this man is doing something about it.
For over a decade, he’s been travelling the streets at night correcting punctuation on signs.
He finds the incorrect use of apostrophes particularly annoying.
So at night, he takes out his ten-foot pole and sticky backed plastic, and either adds or removes apostrophes as necessary.
One of his first corrections was Amys Nail’s: no apostrophe where it should be in Amy’s, and an apostrophe where it shouldn’t be in Nails.
Next was Cambridge Motor’s, apostrophe successfully removed.
Then at Tesco: Fish is not just for Friday’s, apostrophe successfully removed.
Gardeners Patch and Roxfords Pet Shop both had apostrophes added.
As did Vincenzo & Sons Gentlemens Hair Stylist, and Herberts Bakery.
Computer Course’s had the apostrophe removed, as did Pizza Fast Fire’d.
Please Clean Up After You’re Dogs had the apostrophe and the letter e removed.
Authenticity at it’s Best also had the apostrophe removed.
Toilet ONLY for Disabled Elderly Pregnant Children had to have several commas added.
Tux & Tail Gentlemens Outfitters needed an apostrophe, as did Robin Hoods of Treece.
He calls himself a grammar vigilante.
Normally I’d find someone like this petty and pedantic, but here I have some sympathy.
I’m all for breaking the rules when there’s a reason.
What I don’t agree with is sloppiness and laziness.
These rules hadn’t been broken, they’d been ignored by people who couldn’t be bothered.
The purpose of a sign is communication.
That means it must be correct for the person making the communication and the person receiving it, otherwise it’s not communicating.
For many years, I worked with one of London’s best art directors, Gordon Smith.
Gordon was dyslexic so he had a legitimate excuse for bad spelling if he wanted.
But Gordon was too proud for that, he always carried a small electronic speller in his pocket and checked absolutely every word, every comma and apostrophe.
No one was going to do his job for him.
Gordon paid attention to every little detail that went into HIS ads.
Which of course is the attitude that made him one of London’s best art directors, instead of just another sloppy, lazy also-ran.
Bad spelling is fine where it’s appropriate, like text messaging.
There, everyone knows that’s the way you communicate, everyone expects it: writing ur instead of your, and coz instead of because, it saves time fair enough.
But to transfer that thinking to something that takes weeks to put together is just a pose: Let me prove how young and trendy I am: “Down wiv da kidz.”.
It’s like your granny in hot pants, unless there’s a genuine reason for it.
In a Conservative election poster, Saatchi’s once wrote: EDUKASHUN ISN’T WORKING.
Fair enough, that was mis-spelled for a reason, it wouldn’t have been nearly so good if it had been spelled correctly as: EDUCATION ISN’T WORKING.
But whoever wrote those Bristol signs wasn’t trying to be clever, they just couldn’t be arsed.
They weren’t trying to break rules, they just didn’t care what anyone thought.
They didn’t give a damn for the details.
Which to my mind shows a level of contempt for our audience.
“It’s near enough, it’ll do” who cares anyway?
Well, if we can’t be bothered, why should anyone else be bothered reading it?