For December, let’s take a break from thinking about editing business documents and news reports. In this retail-focused season, let’s critique merchandise.
Graphic T-shirts can make good gifts, but they sometimes bypass the copyediting department.
In August, Old Navy stores introduced a line of T-shirts just in time for college football season. The shirts, in team colors, featured a football image, a college logo, and a two-word phrase. The phrase should have been “Let’s go,” but Old Navy printed it without an apostrophe.
The shirts had two other mistakes, too: an upper-case G and an extra exclamation point. Because the phrase included closing punctuation, it was a sentence, not a title. So the G should not have been capitalized. And more than one exclamation point is never correct. Those two errors didn’t receive much attention (except from your humble Stickler).
The missing apostrophe, however, did receive attention. On Twitter and elsewhere, grammar guardians, punctuation protectors, and other lovers of the English language made themselves heard. They objected to the apostrophe error.
Now if only Old Navy would stop calling T-shirts “tees.”
Old Navy is not the only printer of team shirts that should consult a copy editor.
In 2009, the Washington Nationals baseball team wore the team’s official jerseys in a game. Two of the jerseys—Ryan Zimmerman’s and Adam Dunn’s—had the team name misspelled. Majestic Athletic, which had printed the jerseys, apologized. (A month later, Dunn’s shirt fetched $8,000 at auction for the team’s Dream Foundation.)
In 2007, West Virginia University’s basketball team won the National Invitation Tournament title. It was the Mountaineers’ first such title in 65 years. The winners donned jerseys that the NIT had printed, to discover the indignity of a misspelling of “Virginia.”
How about a non-athletic example? Here’s a T-shirt with several problems. The “your” should be “you’re,” of course, because the meaning is “you are.” But the entire sentence is inadequate: the wearer is single regardless of whether the viewer is single. The shirt is a failure of expression. Then again, if a lady is so desperate as to advertise in giant lettering on a T-shirt, the type of gentleman she might attract with such a shirt might be her perfect match.