Marshall: Sine makrs need spel chek

Islander columnist is extreamly distressed by islanders’ extreame spelling mistakes.

Errant Spellings Punctuate Need for Correction
By Becky Fox Marshall

I nearly caused a traffic accident one morning last week, when I passed a large, homemade, plywood sign on the side of the road near the gravel pit on Lynwood Center Road on Bainbridge Island. The stenciled sign stated, in red paint: “Extreame Danger.”

I tapped the brakes just as I passed, thinking, “Did I really see that?”

In deference to the poor fellow behind me undoubtedly trying to make a ferry (judging by the look he was burning at me via the rear-view mirror), and because I was too far past the sign to get a real look, I continued. But on the way home that night, I slowed down to get a second look. Yup. “Extreame.” Right there in red letters about a foot tall.

It gnawed at me like a muscle ache, and not just when I had to drive by. But I figured it was a mistake discovered too late by its author. It was, after all, a temporary sign made of plywood so maybe the guy just let it go.

But a few days later, I drove by the other side of the gravel pit and there, at a different entrance, was another sign, with the same admonition to be very careful as the site posed an “Extreame Danger.”

I was extreamly distressed. I wanted to scream — or maybe screme.

I wanted to call my newest hero, the guy who is “out to edit America.” I learned about him in a Seattle Times article in April, in which he was described as “the Indiana Jones of typos come to do battle with misspellings and botched punctuation.”

He started a national campaign — TEAL (Typo Eradication Advancement League). From March through May, he and three compatriots took on the “2008 Typo Hunt Across America,” trekking from Boston through the south, up the West Coast, and across the plains back to New England. They not only recorded the signs and menus they came across, they also fixed them on the spot, when possible. You can see pictures, see or hear the 27 media reports about the movement and read his blog (which will keep you alternating between laughing and crying) by going to

We’re not alone, we sticklers for proper punctuation and spelling.

I learned about a Seattle software tester who runs He is fighting against the maddening, growing use of apostrophes where they’re not needed. And then of course there are the equally aggravating instances of absent apostrophes — like when you get a party invitation that says “Your invited.” This guy has heard from people around the world — evidence that deteriorating language is not solely a U.S. problem.

It’s hard to shop or go out for a meal without being accosted by a bad typo, misspelling or poorly placed or sadly missing punctuation.

My daughter shares my love for the language, and my extreame discomfort over its misuse. She frequently texts me photos (yes, I have gone to the dark side when it comes to accepting nouns as verbs — I was texted, Instant Messaged and tasked into submission some time ago) of mangled signs. She’ll IM me from her job in Minnesota to say the copy machine in her office keeps beeping “Warning — Less than 100 sheets of paper” when it should say “Fewer than ” She understands why sometimes it’s just too hard to go out, or to work

I’m not judging bad spelling or punctuation. My mother left me a note weekly in high school to “Please vacume.” She scattered apostrophes throughout her writing like Tinkerbell and fairy dust. I am sure I have made a few grammatical errors in this column (hopefully the editor will catch the misspellings!). I once wrote “irregardless” in a newspaper story when I was starting out as a reporter — and received hate mail!

It’s not the mistakes, it’s the not caring that bothers me — and our educational system.

So let’s pay attention. If we all work together, we can stamp out the extreame danger that abandoning the rules of language poses.

P.S. Caring about punctuation and spelling isn’t just for nerds. For a hilarious look, read “Eats Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” by Lynne Truss. Recipient of Britain’s Book of the Year Award in 2006, it has sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. Who knew punctuation could be so fun? She even has a punctuation game;

Becky Fox Marshall is a longtime Bainbridge Island journalist.