Tuesday, February 03, 2009

If everyone's going to see it, make sure it's right

Twice over the last week, I have had the pleasure of using a Sloan Valve flushless urinal. (I bet you haven't read many blog posts that start with a sentence about urinals, have you?!) The facilities at which they were installed were justifiably proud of their green initiative. So much so, in fact, that at both institutions, they had the following sign hung above each urinal:

Nice, huh? Sure, if you ignore the poor grammar. What poor grammar, you may ask? Admittedly, it's minor, but it bugs me nonetheless:

"... you are helping the environment to conserve ..."

Does the environment conserve? If the environment itself can conserve, then why are we being asked to do so? Let's just let the environment fix itself!

Maybe a better way to word this would be "... you are helping the environment by conserving ...".

Even then, it's not really accurate. Am I, as a user, really helping the environment? I suppose if there were traditional urinals next to the flushless ones and I chose to use the flushless ones, then I can say I helped the environment. But there were no traditional ones, and I wasn't going to go find one because I had to pee.

So it was really the facility owner that was helping the environment by taking away my choice, and they should be applauded for that. The sign should really celebrate them: "The University of Colorado is helping the environment by conserving ..."

It reminds me of when I was publishing an email newsletter for SharedPlan Software. Our newsletter distribution got up to about 20,000 readers, and I would stress out every time I hit the Send button. Any little grammatical error was going to be seen and judged by all those people, so I would critically read and reread several times before sending.

Make sure you get it right before the whole world reads it!

(Author's note: I saw the first of these signs at some facility last week, and it wasn't until I had already left that this grammatical issue occurred to me. I wanted to blog about it, but wanted the picture, so I was glad to come across the same sign today. However, I had never really thought about how awkward it is to take a picture around a bank of urinals. You know, there's just a certain urinal etiquette that must be respected. So I kind of had to hang around until everyone left to avoid any potential embarrassment, but I didn't want to be seen as lurking, either. I ended up washing my hands really, really well.)