Grammar Vigilante

posted on 14th Jan 2019 by Glenn Bolton

Whilst graphic designers aren’t the best spellers in the world, they’re known for being sticklers for detail. One of our greatest flaws is never being able to switch off. When out and about there could be any number of design crimes that make our hearts sink, our brows furrow and our eyes twinge! Thankfully, there’s a hero among us – The Grammar Vigilante! Last year, The Guardian did a piece on this HERO running amok around Bristol…

He has been branded “the Banksy of punctuation” and describes himself as a “grammar vigilante”.

For more than a decade, an unknown corrector of poor English has been venturing out in the dead of night and tidying up the punctuation on Bristol’s shop fronts and street signs.

The identity of the man remains unknown but on Monday, the BBC announced it had tracked him down and had accompanied him on one of his night-time missions.

He told the BBC he was a family man who worked in engineering. “I’m a grammar vigilante,” he said. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing.”

The man said he began by scratching out an extraneous apostrophe on a sign but has since become more sophisticated and has built an “apostrophiser” – a long-handled piece of kit that allows him to reach up to shop signs to add in or cover up offending punctuation marks. “This is a device that enables you to plant an apostrophe quite high up and get over any obstacles,” he said.

He also has a specially made stepladder that means he does not have to lean a conventional ladder against shop windows and carries a set square and scalpel to make sure his work is neat and precise.

The first sign he tackled was in 2003. “It was a council sign – Mondays to Fridays – and had these ridiculous apostrophes. I was able to scratch those off.”

Among the signs he has corrected in and around Bristol – the home town of the street artist Banksy – is a nail shop that used to bear the “gross” sign “Amys Nail’s”. “It was so loud and in your face. I just couldn’t abide it. It grates.”

He recently took it upon himself to sort out “Cambridge Motor’s” – and was thanked by the owners when his handiwork was pointed out.

When it was put to him that what he was doing was probably illegal, his defence was staunch. “I’m sticking on a bit of sticky-back plastic. It’s more of a crime to have the apostrophes wrong.

On behalf of designers everywhere, thank you, Grammar Vigilante, thank you.

Glenn Bolton – Senior Graphic Designer
Glenn has been waving the flag for Neworld for 5 years now. Not so new to our design team anymore. He’s our resident craft beer aficionado, wannabe Michelin star chef, photographer of yummy foods, maker of tiny things, Dublin tour guide and a proprietor of one of the swankiest single speed bikes around town.