Monday, January 18, 2016

The Great Typo Hunt

Jeff Deck is a member of what some sarcastically call the "Grammar Police," although in Deck's case publicly misspelled words seem to bother him even more than grammar abuse does.  Keep in mind, too, that despite the less-than-kind remarks often directed at Deck and his fellow grammar cops, there are thousands of them out there.  Odds are, you know one yourself - or, deep down in your heart, you are one.  Deck and his friends, though, decided to take their policing to the next level.

Deck created the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL), planned a road trip of almost 12,000 miles that would take him across the country and back correcting typos, and recruited three friends who would share individual parts of the trip with him.  Along the way, Jeff, Benjamin, Jane, and Josh would encounter every response imaginable from the people whose errors they asked permission to correct, including: indifference, belligerence, amusement, whole hearted support, and in one unfortunate case in which they failed to ask for permission before making a correction, being charged by the government for defacing federal property. 

Ultimately though, TEAL's mission would develop into more than just a one-time road trip to correct grammatical and spelling mistakes on a few hundred grocery store, restaurant, and mall signs because Jeff and Benjamin began to realize that the real "point of the mission was to inspire other ordinary people to speak out when they see mistakes."  As editors, they knew how important moving beyond the "first draft" is to the clarity of written communication - and that is the message they wanted to spread across the country, one correction at a time.

Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson
Those approached by the TEAL team were not the only ones to learn something from the encounters.  Jeff and Benjamin, because of the variety of feedback and responses they received from those they approached, found that they had "taken a tour of basic human interactions."  From their rather random sampling of humanity, they experienced the whole gamut of reactions from people suddenly faced with unexpected challenges and problems.  The TEAL team, it is safe to say, learned as much from the trip as the people they spoke with along the way.

The subtitle to The Great Typo Hunt is "Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time" - a lofty goal, to be sure.  Perhaps Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson did not, after all, change the world, but they changed themselves, and that may be the more important thing.  Grammar policemen everywhere (and I use the term here in the most complimentary way possible) will enjoy this book.  It is a little dryly written at times but it is a true adventure for Deck and Herson's fellow nerds, among whom I count myself.


  1. In my book grammar rules are meant to be broken so I am not in the police category. I am not certain how I would react if approached by these fellows. Part of me says, oh what a fun and clever trip that must have been and another part says, what jerks! :)

    1. Most of what they turned up seemed to involve spelling errors rather than grammar, but they did turn up a number of prepositional problems and failure to agree subject and verb, etc. I'm with you otherwise...I take great pleasure in ending a sentence with a preposition, and the like. :-)

    2. Ending a sentence with a preposition is perfectly legal. :) Not sure how/why that fake-rule has become so popular.

      I was working at B&N when this book was released and bought it immediately. It was a bit slow, honestly, and sometimes the author's musings got a little heavy-handed, but it's a fun idea. I've certainly seen my fair share of signs I've wanted to correct.

    3. It was definitely a no-no at one have to remember how old I am...but I think it's been lightened up on for quite a while now, too, especially in journalism and the like.