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Grammar Patrol


Every so often, a yellow postcard arrives at the Independent from a local representative of SPELL: the Society for the Preservation of English Language and Literature.

It's called a "Goof Card" and printed on the back is the following disclaimer: SPELL is an organization that promotes high standards of English usage. As a member of SPELL, I would like to offer you the following constructive criticism:

Recently, this writer received a goof card for using "pore" instead of "pour." "The latter is for liquids," I was informed in a signed note that included a clipped passage from the offending review.

The brevity and didacticism of these notes have led some on the Independent's editorial staff to fancy the correspondent as something of a grammar Nazi.

And one might assume the worst after learning that this self-appointed copy editor taught German at Cheyenne Mountain High School for 30 years. But Donna Bauer is no authoritarian. She merely believes in maintaining proper use of the English language.

Depending on her mood, Bauer will crank out a few goof cards per week to writers in the wrong. "I'm not looking for typos," she notes.

Major offenders in language abuse, according to Bauer, include NFL announcers, though she does exclude John Madden.

Occasionally Bauer scores big and spies a boo-boo in the habitually immaculate pages of The New Yorker or The Atlantic. She's sent cards to these publications too, but has yet to hear back.

She emphatically denies that she is jockeying for copy editing work with this newsweekly.

"I couldn't possibly do it for less than $100 an hour," she said with a laugh.

For the sake of Bauer's mission and our own, the Independent hopes to pore over her Goof Cards as rarely as possible. Still, it's nice to know we're being watched.

-- story by John Dicker

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