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Can You Spot the Grammar Mistake in the City's $645K Pre-K Ad Campaign?

By Amy Zimmer | September 22, 2014 7:43am
 The Department of Education's signs promoting pre-k across the city had a misplaced comma.
Education Department's $645K Pre-K Campaign Has Grammar Error
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PARK SLOPE — The Department of Education's $645,000 campaign to promote free pre-K seats had one very small problem — bad grammar.

At least two of the signs that were plastered on buses, subways and playground gates across the city encouraging parents to sign up for pre-K had the same error, eagle-eyed parents noted.

One sign, spotted on the subway, said: "Children who attend high-quality pre-k at a Community-Based Early Childhood Center through the Department of Education, learn to share, make friends, and talk to others."

Another sign seen hanging in a Park Slope playground in Prospect Park said, "High-quality pre-k at Community-Based Early Childhood Centers through the Department of Education, sparks a lifetime of learning for kindergarten and beyond."

There should not have been commas placed after "Education" in either sentence, experts said.

"It doesn't take the Common Core to know that grammar is important," said David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, when he was shown the text of the pre-K signs.

"Bad proofreading," he added, "is a poor model for our students, who are always urged to carefully review their writing and not depend on spell-check."

A comma shouldn't be used immediately after a subject, regardless of how long that subject is, "Grammar Girl" Mignon Fogarty explained when DNAinfo New York reached out for a quick lesson in punctuation.

"My guess is that the extremely long subjects or the prepositional phrases at the end of the subjects confused the writer into thinking he or she needed a comma," said Fogarty, who hosts the popular weekly educational podcast "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing."

It wasn't the first time someone contacted her about mistakes made by those who run schools.

"I often get complaints from parents about errors on instructions that get sent home from school or signs they see in their children's schools," she said.

"It's important to remember that we're all human and make mistakes, but I do believe that it is fair to hold schools and teachers to a higher standard than the general public."

The DOE blanketed the city with pre-K ads to reach as many families as possible and alert them of the new seats this year. The city initially launched a $300,000 ad campaign in April. As of August, its spending on paid media had increased to $645,000, school officials said.

The huge effort helped get 51,500 children registered for pre-K at 1,655 public schools and community-based centers by the start of the school year.

"When an excess comma is the worst thing someone can say about a pre-K expansion that is reaching more than 50,000 4-year-olds, I think it is fair to say we are doing something right," DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said.