Tipp-Ex kids fined for correcting America's missing apostrophes

They found 'emense' public mistakes, but making good two tiny errors cost them £1,640

A bizarre campaign against grammatical incorrectness has landed two young Americans in deep trouble. The pair, Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson, who have roamed across America using marker pens and Tipp-Ex to correct bad spelling and grammar on less-than-literate signs, went a little too far when they amended a historic, hand-painted noticeboard at Grand Canyon National Park. They were arrested, given probation, ordered to pay a $3,035 (£1,640) repair bill, and banned from all US national parks.

The two are the somewhat nit-picking brains behind the Typo Eradication Advancement League (Teal), a sort of provisional wing of the Plain English Campaign. In March, it launched an Outreach Mission to correct grocers' apostrophes and spelling faux pas – coast to coast. Armed with only Tipp-Ex, chalk, and permanent markers, Messrs Deck and Herson travelled nearly 12,000 miles in 73 days, and identified 423 instances of signage marred by mistakes in spelling, punctuation and grammar. They made 231 corrections.

In Texas a firm called Wings announced it was "Now acepting application". There was a sign for "Dillettante" chocolate; posters referring to "recepies"; "cake's" and "birthday candell's"; signs that had the word "priveleges"; and a lot of "your" rather than "you're". An eatery in New York offered "chicken parmasan" salad, and a grocery, traditionally the home of the misused apostrophe, which called itself a "grocerry". They found menu boards advertising "today special's" and "capacino". A sign that warned "pedestrians use walks not roads"; a T-shirt shop missing the dash between the "T" and the "shirt"; an Army-Navy store offering a "hellicopter" helmet and a bullet "bandoleer", and a "Sweedish" berry drink. Mr Deck identified the correct use of the apostrophe to be America's greatest grammatical blindspot.

A star of local spelling bees as a child, Mr Deck set up Teal after attending his five-year reunion at Dartmouth College. He said: "I was speaking with some of my classmates who were becoming doctors and lawyers, and other people who could have an impact on the world and I started to wonder how I might be able to do that... fixing typos was what I came up with... I've always been aware of typos wherever I go [and] I figured that it was a national problem".

Soon Mr Deck had founded Teal, complete with a website, blog and a typo correction kit. The tour began on 5 March from Mr Deck's town of Somerville, Massachusetts, and led the pair through more than 20 states correcting public signs and "other venues where innocent eyes may be befouled by the vile stains on the delicate fabric of our language," according to the Teal website, jeffdeck.com. Asked if it had all been worthwhile, he said: "Certainly! There are a lot more people out there now carrying Sharpies [a brand of marker pen] around with them."

And Mr Deck and chums are collecting a fan base. One Ruth M Newton, for instance, wrote to the Teal blog: "Bless your heart for reassuring me that I am not the only spelling and punctuation nut left in North America."

At the Grand Canyon National Park, the men had found a 60-year-old sign with a misplaced apostrophe and a missing comma. They duly whipped out Tipp-Ex and pen, and made the corrections. They then spotted that "immense" was spelled as "emense". They were shocked, but stayed their hands. Mr Deck later wrote: "I was reluctant to disfigure the sign any further.... Still, I shall be haunted by that perversity, "emense" in my train-whistle-blighted dreams."

Despite their self-control, arrest and swift retribution followed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine