Spot the error
An invitation from a reader:
See if you can spot the error in the following quote:
The DRC process "pretty much takes the community out of the picture," said Alan Zukerberg, an activist from Pikesville. "They're left to basically complaining to their council person, and hope that they're council person can play games."
It’s an enduring mystery that professional journalists, college graduates who make their living by the language, have trouble distinguishing it's from its or, as in this example, among their, they’re and there. And while any writer might mistakenly type in the wrong word — a synapse misfiring in a moment of distraction — one would have thought that the copy editing and proofreading of the article would have caught this.
A longtime reader complains that we continue to write about opening arguments in trials, "the mark of a novice court reporter." In trials, the opposing lawyers present opening statements and closing arguments.
And there is this, in the lead paragraph of an article:
Health guru Ian Smith paced back and forth on an outdoor stage and yelled out to his audience, at times pleading, cajoling and even bargaining with them to loose weight.
At the least, three copy editors should have had an opportunity to catch loose for lose in this sentence (not to speak of the reporter’s and assigning editor’s responsibilities, particularly for the lead of the story). "Inexcusable,"says the reader who complained about this one.
Well, yes. But still.
Some semesters back, one of my students experienced a flash of insight into copy editing, saying, “You catch 19 errors in a story and then get penalized for the 20th. It' just not fair." A story with only 20 errors may be better than average. Some years back, a veteran reporter set to work on the city desk commented after the first week, "Reading other people’s raw copy is like looking at your grandmother naked."
The process by which the sausage is inserted into the casing here is by no means as orderly and efficient as we would like. On a given day, assigning editors and copy editors will catch and correct a multitude of errors, some factual, some linguistic. And on that given day, a certain number of errors will slip past everyone, despite our best and most conscientious efforts.
The errors that slip through our hands irritate you and embarrass us. It is the case today, as it was yesterday and almost certainly will be tomorrow:
The Sun regrets the errors.