We grammar geeks often wince at the sight of misused words in signs we see in public places. We threaten to carry a red pen and fix them. I didn’t use a red pen, but I did edit in a public place recently.
I was in a large antiques store somewhere in North Carolina, looking at an old kitchen table. A handwritten sign with the details about the table was taped to the top, which was a bright, 1960s yellow. The sign suggested that black chairs would “compliment” the table. In a split second, I decided to make the small fix. I took out my black ink pen and changed the i to an e. So “compliment” (to praise or flatter) became “complement” (to complete or go with). It almost looked as if it had been right all the time.
This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.