The Apostrophe Catastrophe
The proofreader does not like to think of himself as a pedant. He doesn’t see himself as some kind of self appointed guardian of the English language. He is not a fully paid-up member of the Grammar Police. He does not count himself among those who behave like the Agents of Syntax. He would be deeply uncomfortable in the presence of anyone who perceived themselves as some kind of Punisher of Poor Punctuation.
He is none of these things. He is a proofreader. Moreover, he is a professional proofreader. His role is not to sneer or deride. His role is to highlight errors in order to transform a document from something that might only be considered a draft into something that is fit for public consumption. His job is to safeguard the reputation of his clients by ensuring they do not publish material that may make them appear foolish or may be unhelpful to their customers. He has also, on occasion, uncovered errors that could have resulted in serious financial loss. For example, he once noticed that an item of jewelry was being sold at a fraction of its value, due to a misplaced decimal point. These are the things that give him purpose. He is nothing if not practical. He is not a snarling Grammar Nazi, using his dictionary as a weapon. He is a helpful professional. Sneering is not his thing.
But the sign drives him mad. The sign invokes a slight curling of the lip that may, in time, become something that might reasonably be described as a sneer. He hopes this is not the case but he is not optimistic regarding the outcome. He has tried to ignore it but it is impossible. It wouldn’t be so bad if he passed it infrequently. Unfortunately, he has to pass the sign every week day morning as he takes his children to school.
The sign is high up on the red brick wall of a building that the proofreader thinks used to be a bank. The sign says Schoolteachers Friendly Society.
Now, the proofreader never takes the absence of an apostrophe lightly. Apostrophes are very important. Apostrophes denote possession. Apostrophes denote contraction; in this role, the proofreader thinks of the apostrophe as a small fragment of debris left over when two words smash into one another. He would never deny the vital function that apostrophes often play.
All that being said, he has, on occasion, looked the other way. He hasn’t felt good about it but he has allowed his head to rule his heart and not the other way round. These occasions when he has had to let these grammatical transgressions pass unchallenged almost always involve signs, logos or other elements were typographical design is a governing factor. He understands that significant design elements must occasionally be considered exempt from the rules that govern the printed word. Apostrophes are awkward little buggers. They are a typographical sore thumb, spoiling the fine line of a neatly designed piece of type.
The proofreader simply can’t make the exception this time. This is the Schoolteachers' Friendly Society. The very name speaks of academia and education. An exception can’t be made.
The proofreader walks past, shaking his head. He reaches up and touches a finger to the left corner of his mouth.
Yes, that curve is definitely getting bigger. Any day now, he’ll have a fully fledged sneer.
To find out what the errors are, click on 'Read More' below.
In the first paragraph, ‘self appointed’ should be ‘self-appointed’, as it is a compound adjective.
In the third paragraph, ‘week day’ should be ‘weekday’.
In the sixth paragraph, ‘were typographical design’ should be ‘where typographical design’.
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