Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have not wasted their lives.

They fight a losing battle, an unyielding tide of misplaced apostrophes and poor spelling. But still, they fight. Why, you ask. Because, they say. Because, they must.

For the last three months, they have circled the nation in search of awkward grammar construction. They have ferreted out bad subject-verb agreements, and they have faced stone-faced opposition everywhere. They have shone a light on typos in public places, and they have traveled by a GPS-guided '97 Nissan Sentra, sleeping on the couches of college friends and sticking around just long enough to do right by the English language. Then it's on the road again, off to a new town with new typos.

Picture a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation—holding back a flood of mixed metaphors and spelling mistakes and extraneous punctuation so commonplace we rarely notice it anymore. But they are 28 and idealistic. Graduates of Dartmouth College, they are old friends with a schoolmarm's irritation at conspicuous errors, and despite their mild and somewhat nerdy exteriors, they have serious nerve. Deck lives outside Boston; Herson lives outside Washington. And together, they are TEAL—the Typo Eradication Advancement League—and they are between jobs.

So they approach a cafe, a shoe store, a visitors center.

They identify a typo on a sign, a label, a poster.

They point out the typo. They await the reaction.

This next part varies. They are greeted warmly (sometimes). They are told to go away (sometimes). They are gently blown off (usually). "We have not yet encountered fisticuffs," Herson said. But it's always a possibility. Often they make the needed alterations themselves, with compliance from a manager or supervisor. And when ignored, they have resorted to guerrilla tactics—slipping in a stray letter here, removing an errant comma there. They have found about 400 cringe-inducing examples of bad copy mistakes—on church signs and at Rockefeller Center, on sandwich boards and at the Grand Canyon.

That is, 400 examples they have brought to the attention of the powers that be. They have gone as far as correcting graffiti. Their tour ended this week.

Their route was circular. Deck began March 5 in Boston, drove to Virginia and picked up Herson; from there they worked their way clockwise around the country, from Atlanta to Texas to Seattle to Madison, with many stops in between. (Their blog is at and will be updated regularly, typo trip or no typo trip.) They swung into Chicago in late April—the town that gave birth to their guiding light, "The Chicago Manual of Style." They headed straight for Wicker Park. They tend to hunt for typos in "high-density text locations," in spots with more independent businesses than chains—indies being generally less attentive to flagrant sins against grammar than corporate conglomerates.

Deck, who decided to launch the tour after spotting typos in his shower curtain (it was covered in math terms and equations), arrived wearing an Indiana Jones hat. He had a watchful manner and rarely seemed to blink. His foil, Herson, a kind of Ratzo Rizzo of proper usage, was jumpier, squirrelly, eager to push Deck whenever an encounter with a store employee got awkward (which was every time).

We started down Milwaukee Avenue.

Immediately, Herson spotted an offense—a second-floor awning outside a tarot shop that advertised "Energy Stone's." They climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached a middle-age woman with a quizzical expression. "We happened to notice the sign for energy stones," Deck said, "and there happens to be an extra apostrophe. 'Stone's' doesn't need the apostrophe."

"And?" she asked, her voice flat with annoyance.

"And we wanted to bring it to your attention," Deck said.

As they spoke, the woman's daughter stepped into the room and shouted: "Oh my God! I saw you guys on 'Good Morning America.' Tell me, tell me—what did we get wrong?" She sounded genuinely thrilled. (Actually, they were on "The Today Show.") Herson explained the typo on the awning. Deck said he understood that the mistake is out of the way and not easy to fix, but he asked them to promise that they would fix it—soon.

"Don't know if we can ..." the woman said.

Deck said they've heard that a lot.

Back on the street, Deck said poor use of the apostrophe was their most commonly encountered typo. "It's like a virus," he said. Herson agreed: "It really is contagious, I think. Especially the lack of them in possessives." (For instance, parking lot signs explaining that any unauthorized vehicles will be towed "at owners expense" have been particularly pervasive.)