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The Great Typo Hunt

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They've recorded their deeds in a new book, The Great Typo Hunt, that comes complete with breezy writing, mock superhero prologues, and a serious mission to return phonics and proofreading to places of honor.

For those who say that the occasional “Thrusday” or “restroom's” is no big deal, Deck and Herson would argue that the proliferation of typos in American places of business are symptomatic of something more than just a moment of carelessness.

“The thing about language is that it's something that we all share,” said Deck in a phone interview. “It touches on all aspects of life. When language goes wrong, it can tell us interesting things. The typos were just the surface. Underneath, there's a deeper issue of communication.”

“I think it's the same reason we see more pollution,” says Herson. “People see more of it on the landscape and get used to it.” Also, in today's world, “we're less comfortable walking over to Joe's Barber Shop and saying, 'Hey, you've got a typo on the sign.' ”

Deck cites as an example a candy counter in Mobile, Ala., where the store clerk was too afraid of her boss to let them fix a sign reading, “Caution: Do Not Touch Very Hot.” She kept looking at the ceiling, as if her boss were watching her through the security cameras.

“I think that's an illusion,” says Herson. “The idea that you'll get in trouble for making something better.”

Reading about someone altering apostrophes is not going to keep you going for 249 pages, and Deck and Herson get into deeper matters than turning “puding” into “pudding.” Besides the eternal lure of the open road, the book offers background into how Deck discovered his inner editor and roped two friends and his girlfriend into the typo hunt. The authors argue strongly for phonics and Direct Instruction in elementary schools and urge people to slow down and take a second look at their writing before tossing it out there to fend for itself. The best parts are the ground-level interactions that illustrate the nature of communication (both good and bad) in modern America.

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