It depends who you’re talking to.

For some folks, the decline in standards seems to be a major social evil, on a par with human trafficking and global warming.

That’s why a self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ delighted armchair pedants everywhere, making worldwide headlines for going out in the dead of night and correcting Bristol shop signs - one apostrophe at a time.

The practice has now spread to New Zealand, where the ‘Grammar Vigilantes of Aotearoa’ use an old pair of knickers and a red sock as erasers for blackboard signs.

Meanwhile, others couldn’t care less.

They argue that what matters isn’t the accuracy of the spelling, but the quality of the ideas.

That certainly seems to be the case at the Sydney Morning Herald, where a long tradition of typos and grammatical errors within news stories has recently been extended to the headlines themselves. Even to the actual front page, as in this example last month.

Typo on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald, May 5th, 2017.

No doubt the virulent cost-cutting is to blame, which has seen a huge reduction in the number of sub-editors employed by the masthead.

But if greengrocers’ blackboards and Sydney-based newspapers can plead mitigating circumstances, what about advertisers?

It used to be that ads were meticulously checked for correct spelling and grammar.

Judging by what I’ve been seeing recently, that is no longer the case.

The Honda banner ad, below, surely doesn’t mean to imply that I actually am dreaming, does it?


And this Mercedes banner - aside from being incomprehensible - features a horrendous error in the first panel.

But given that everyone will know what the advertiser ‘really’ meant, is this a problem?

My view is that if the product had been a $3 soft drink, aimed at teenagers, then it probably wouldn’t be an issue.

However, when you’re asking someone to spend over $50,000 on a car, you want them to feel that everything you produce is made with precision.

The audience for Mercedes is probably over 40. They’re probably well-off, well-educated, and well-versed in correct grammar.

So does spelling matter?

Like I said, it depends who you’re talking to.