Try Oatmeal

Yesterday, while driving past McDonald’s on my way to the Y, I read this sign: “Try Are Oatmeal.” Annoyed by the incorrect “are,” I vented via Facebook status.

What I meant as a therapeutic search for other “grammar Nazis” turned into a discussion about fast food workers and their education level.

I never meant to imply that fast food workers were uneducated because someone used the wrong “are” on a restaurant sign. Chances are, the person who did the actual work on the sign wasn’t the one who created the message, anyway. I try not to make those kinds of generalizations about people because we’ve been on the receiving end of ones that aren’t true of us.

But that’s not my point. Grammar is.

Today, this is what the sign said:

Thankfully, I’m not the only one who noticed or cared.

It’s an age where not many people seem to notice or care about spelling, grammar, punctuation and all the other rules of writing and speaking we used to learn about in school. (Yikes! Already, I sound like I’m old.)

I’ll be the first to admit I’m no grammarian. I don’t always get it right. And I don’t know every grammar rule in the English language. I’m no grammar expert. More of a lover, I guess. And I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, in public, in print. (I once included the word “tresses” in a  newspaper story about building a house. The wife of a builder sent me a not-so-polite message informing me that the word I was looking for was “trusses.” Embarrassing, to say the least.)

So, maybe I’m biased. As a professional writer and editor, grammar, and its correct usage, is part of my job. I get paid to care.

That’s not everyone’s position, but I think grammar (and spelling and punctuation, for that matter) is something most people should care about, whether it’s part of their job or not.

The McDonald’s sign, and the subsequent discussion, is proof of why.

I don’t know anyone who works at that McDonald’s, so the sign is my first, and maybe only, impression of the restaurant. When there’s a mistake on the sign, my first thought is NOT that everyone who works there must be stupid, but that they don’t care enough to get it right. So, if they don’t care enough to make sure their sign is spelled correctly and communicates an accurate message, do they care enough to get my order right? Or keep a clean restaurant? Or serve me with compassion and a smile?

It’s just a sign, right? Maybe I’m making too much of it. But what if that mistake was on your application for employment? Teachers used to call those “careless” mistakes, and a careless mistake can cost you a chance at a job, at a hearing, at an audience. Just recently, I’ve read a couple of books with major grammatical, spelling and typographical errors in them, which caused me to set them aside and lose respect for the message. Not caring about the details makes me think a person doesn’t care about the larger message or mission.

Digress with me for a moment. I watch a lot of “What Not to Wear,” and the hosts are constantly telling people on the show that how they dress sends a message to people. If they go out in sweats or pajama pants or big, baggy clothes, they’re essentially telling people that they don’t care enough about themselves to make an effort at looking nice.

Writing and speaking do the same thing: they send people a message. If you don’t want people to think you’re uneducated, then learn to use language properly.

That said, I don’t think the rules apply in every situation. Does grammar apply to texting or Twitter? Or Facebook for that matter? IMO, no. (That’s, “in my opinion” for the texting illiterate. I am one of you.) But if we’re talking about a public image: a sign, a poster, a job application, a presentation, then I say, put your best foot forward. It can only help you.

So, if you haven’t clicked away in outrage or disgust, here’s a little reward for you:

I discovered a new Web site this week. I suspect I’m behind the curve on this one, as I am on most things culturally popular and relevant. Oddly enough, it has to do with oatmeal, which, in a way, started this whole post. Click here to “try oatmeal,” or in this case, oatmeal.com. I can’t vouch for all the content on the site, but this comic about word misspellings made me laugh out loud. (Or LOL?)

If you find any grammatical mistakes in this post, care enough to tell me. And if you dare, post a few of your own. If we can’t laugh at our mistakes, we’ll be afraid to make them.

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2 thoughts on “Try Oatmeal

  1. I love “The Oatmeal.” Although, most of his comics are not safe to share on facebook (for me, anyway. I am friended by a lot of younger people).

    Grammar mistakes on signs bug me a lot. 🙂

  2. This is great, Lisa! Absolutely love it! Recently spotted at a local Burger King in McKeesport, PA — “Sorry We Closed We out of meet.”

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