You’re Mistake’s Are Drivving Me Crazy

While walking to the D train the other day, I noticed that the McDonald’s on the north side of East Fordham Road was closed for renovations. The sign in its window mentioned that the restaurant would reopen later this year and it would have a new, expanded “dinning room.” A dinning room? Hmm, I guess while I’m dining on a Big Mac, I’ll be continuously besieged by loud noises. After all, that is what the sign promises.

While I’m chowing down, I can look out the window and across the street. Maybe I’ll see a sign advertising “We have CD’s and Video’s for sale” in one of the multiple electronics stores. But here is where my bewilderment comes in to play. What items belonging to CD and Video are for sale? CD’s liner notes? Video’s plastic case? Considering both words are in the possessive form with ’s, something must belong to them.

East Fordham Road isn’t the only place plagued by such errors. The absence of dictionary, spell check and grammar check usage is everywhere. It’s even leaked underground; a few years ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had a sign in the Union Turnpike station on the E line indicating “limeted” service. This wasn’t a flimsy paper service change sign – it was one of the permanent black and white destination signs above the platform. I’m not sure whether it’s been removed yet, but they do have other misspellings. A notable one – station tiles that spell out “BRODAWAY” in the Broadway station on the G line (and it has been that way since 1933!)

Maybe my three years as a Ram editor has driven me to the brink of insanity. Or, it may well have been my strict Catholic school upbringing, when my teachers (especially the nuns) would spend hours teaching students the difference between its, it’s, your, you’re, there, their and they’re.

Seeing such blatant and easily avoidable mistakes makes me want to break windows with my Merriam-Webster dictionary and bop people over the head with my Bedford Handbook. On a torture rating of one to 10, a root canal rates a nine and an obvious spelling/grammatical error rates a 10.

It’s time to end the madness. I now introduce to you my concise handbook on how to avoid such apparent mistakes.

Make use of your spell checker and dictionary. If you see a little red line under a word on your word processor, don’t ignore it. It usually means that something is amiss. Also, have someone else proofread your work. The person who created the destination sign for the MTA may have spelled limited as “limeted” his entire life. Had someone else checked his handiwork, I’m sure the sign would have been corrected.

Like all computer software, spell checkers are not infallible. It can’t tell the difference between a “dining room” and a “dinning room,” because dinning is a word. So, if you misspell a word with the correct spelling of another word, the spell checker won’t pick it up. Here’s proof: one of my professors accidentally typed pubic instead of public on her thesis. Her spell checker didn’t pick it up, but she was smart and didn’t depend on the software alone – she proofread it on paper and picked up the error. Imagine handing in a thesis like that!

A store by my house had a sign in its window earlier this month: “Buy you’re sweetheart some roses this Valentine’s Day.” Well, what if you wanted to buy you’reself some flowers? It looks ridiculous, right? Another bizarre one – a restaurant upstate with a “Drive-Threw.” Does this eatery fling around a person’s car before he picks up his food? Familiarize yourself with the different homonyms and which purposes they are used for.

When the ’s is present, it usually indicates a possessive or a contraction for “(fill in the blank) is.” It never signifies a plural, except perhaps in the case of a single letter (for instance, “Mind your p’s and q’s.”) So a sign that says “We have CD’s and Video’s for sale” technically reads, “We have CD is and Video is for sale.” The sign doesn’t make much sense, now, does it? “CDs and Videos” does.

If I went on and on about spelling and grammatical problems, this column wouldn’t fit in its allotted space. However, paying attention to the aforementioned tips will help increase your writing skills dramatically.

Spelling and grammar can either make you or break you. I had one friend who hired for a competitive job out of a pool of 30 applicants, because she was the only one with spelled résumé correctly (with the accents) in her résumé.

As an added bonus, you will also be saving me from the clutches of a straightjacket. Please, I’m begging you!

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