Arizona State University Hassled by ABC 15 for Grammatically Questionable Billboard

Arizona State University is running a billboard ad campaign pushing ASU as all-world, and ABC 15 is quibbling with its slogan on a billboard in town..

The station's beef is the result of the billboard at 32nd Street and Cactus Road, where an article "the" was missing, as in "one of top universities in the world."

The language police at ABC 15 asked whether the a lack of the one "the" was "sending the wrong message" for such an illustrious institution of higher learning.

It was a slow news day, apparently.

ABC 15's Eric English snapped a photo of the billboard on Monday night. By Tuesday, the sign was changed to "one of the [our emphasis] top universities in the world."

ASU is selling the edit as a sudden change of heart, not a mistake.

ASU spokeswoman Sharon Keeler tells us that nobody is to blame, that the slogan was intended to be written like a newspaper headline, where articles are often left out.

If that's the case, shouldn't the sign read, "one of top universities in world"?

Keeler says scientific studies show that people driving by a billboard at 65 miles per hour can only process six words, which is why the university opted to go without the first article in the slogan. But, Sharon, the second "the" makes the slogan add up to seven words?

Anyway... If the billboard were intended to be written like a newspaper headline, why did the university change it?

Keeler says the only reason was that the gold used in the background of the flawed billboard wasn't consistent with ASU's colors. In the process of changing the gold, Keeler says, the university just happened to decide to throw in another "the".

There you have it -- a simple explanation, which we (ahem) believe every word of.

And who knew that a television news department knew so much about proper English?!

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James King
Contact: James King