16 May 2017

Whanganui's grammar vigilante

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:19 pm on 16 May 2017

A Whanganui woman is calling on New Zealanders irked by missing hyphens, or errant apostrophes, to join her crusade to correct grammar mishaps.

Margi Keys was inspired by ‘the Banksy of punctuation’ who has been sneaking around at night to fix up poor punctuation on Bristol's shop fronts and street signs.

Keys was thrilled by the work of Mr Apostrophiser, as he’s known, and is now operating as the vigilante in chief of the Grammar Vigilantes of Aotearoa.

Last month she started her work in Whanganui - starting with signs at the local market.

“At that stage I just had one piece of chalk and my hand, really, just to rub out any things I could see that were wrong.”

She then progressed to using an old pair of knickers and a red sock as erasers for blackboard signs.

Armed with her erasers, a permanent marker and a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, she set about restoring sense to stall signs.

Keys says she approaches stall holders who don’t have customers and introduces herself before suggesting improvements she could make to their sign.

While she prefers to tell them what she’s doing, she says that’s not always possible.

“If they’re really busy with customers, I just do the work without asking.”

Keys says her work has given her a lot of joy, as it has to other people she meets.

“They go ‘oh, so you’re that person!’

Keys says hyphens and apostrophes are the most common changes she needs to make.

“The wood-fired pizza woman was quite pleased to know there should be a hyphen between wood and fired.

“Hyphens are just beautiful.”

After reading about Keys’ work, Mr Apostrophiser contacted the local paper and his email was passed on to her.

The pair now communicate most days.

“Right at the beginning I thought, I want to marry that guy because he really had something that I was passionate about as well.”

Keys says she has yet to propose to her fellow grammarian.

Anyone interested in helping Keys on her grammar crusade can find her on Facebook.

“It would be great if people who wanted to do this work and had love in their hearts could join our happy duo – there’s just one in Auckland and me in Whanganui.”