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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign by Sandra Nachlinger

I have an unusual hobby. I collect signs! No, I don’t steal stop signs at intersections. Nor do I pilfer them from stores, but I do collect their messages (and sometimes take photos). One of my favorites says:


Not a very appetizing advertisement, is it? (Unfortunately, I didn’t have a camera with me that day!)

Recently while shopping I came across one that the Grammar Police will surely appreciate.  If you’re a charter member of that force (I am!) then you’ve probably been tempted to edit the errors you’ve seen. Come on. Admit it. Unfortunately, the roving editor who corrected these transposed letters didn’t catch the extra E in “sateeen.”

And a while back I laughed when I snapped this photo in a grocery store:

Only one aisle with nutritional food? Makes you wonder what the other shelves contain, doesn’t it?

But while errors like the ones I’ve shown can be amusing, they’re not so funny when they appear in books. When an author writes “reign” (what kings and queens do) instead of “rein” (leather straps attached to a horse’s bridle), I’m jarred out of the story and have completely left the world that the author worked so hard to create. That also goes for peddle (sell) and pedal (what you do on a bicycle), and a host of other common goofs. We all make mistakes, of course, and homonyms are especially hard to catch, but …

Is it just me? Do grammatical and spelling errors bother you? Or do you notice them at all?

Are these errors a sign that we have become too reliant on grammar check and spell check?

Sandra Nachlinger is the author of Bluebonnets for Elly (a sweet romance) and 
co-author with Sandra Allen of I.O.U. Sex (a spicy Baby Boomer romance).


  1. I also am an official member of the grammar police. I still use the Oxford comma and will continue to do so even though it's out of fashion. My husband and I laugh about fishing camp stores that sell "Eats and Bait". We suspect the clerks sometimes forget to wash their hands between preparing food and scooping up bait. Our youngest daughter, an English major who is now a school librarian, and I shudder at signs and other ads with incorrect plurals or words that we find offensive. Great post, Sandy!

    1. Wouldn't it be funny to see a sign that said "Sushi / Bait"? I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who zeroes in on errors. I wonder why our brains are wired to see those goofs?

  2. When I am reading a book, I will skip right over typos or misuses-- unless it is happening all the time. I think it comes from years of being online with messenger and chatting where you learn to read past the words (often misspelled) to the meaning.

    Speed reading complicates editing, and I make mistakes even in my blogs that I wonder how that happened. To edit requires a whole different skill set than to read where I often skim unless the writing is particularly beautiful where I savor the way the words were set down. My own weaknesses, where I have to stop and think every time I use the words are those like worse and worst or further and farther. Sometimes I rewrite to avoid them :).

    I have come across in one of my rough drafts a misuse of there, their or they're. I forget which; but when I saw it, I could not believe I'd written it wrong. Fortunately I was the only one to see the goof-- that time. It didn't happen because I didn't know the right one. It happened because I was speed writing ;)

    1. I'm able to forgive five or six errors over the course of a book, but when they're repeated over and over, it bugs me. Unfortunately, I'm unable to turn off my editor brain when reading. One of my writing friends calls that a "gift." I think it's more of a curse!

  3. Great post! I, too, cringe when I see mistakes on signs. I did pale when a reviewer pointed out a homonym mistake in one of my books. I'm sure my publisher can't take the time to correct one word in a dozen places, but it does bother me.
    What I find that takes me out of a story are larger mistakes. Like having a hero see the Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge from his office window. Uh, no. They are 17 miles apart and not visible from one window in midtown. Or the book that talked about the bad smell of NYC. Uh, no. It's the industrial part of New Jersey that smells. New York does not. Those kinds of errors really jar me out of a story. A few minutes of research goes a long way. Thanks for this post, Sandy. It's a great reminder.

  4. Me t5oo Sandy! This started with my mother who was an English teacher...she taught me well!

  5. Oh, yes, I am definitely in the grammar police, and those "little" errors can change the way I see the book and the author. Although occasional goofs may be forgiven, if I put it down to editing. Or just human error.

    But I love this article, and seeing signs with errors makes me laugh.


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