Sorry, but no
Much as we love and treasure our readers and yearn to respond to their concerns, we sometimes have to disappoint their expectations.
A daily reader of The Sun who teaches at an area university sent in a complaint about “basic grammatical errors in stories and headlines in the paper,” singling out the lead sentence of an article that began, "A relatively high NUMBER of Maryland high school students ARE....” He adds that he wonders whether he should continue advising his students to read the newspaper and emulate the writing in it.
He would do well to advise his charges to emulate the sentence he disparages, because collective nouns in English can be either singular or plural, depending on context. American usage generally prefers words such as team, committee, panel and the like as a singular. (British usage tends to prefer the reverse.) But there are words such as couple, majority and, yes, number that can be used in either singular or plural sense.
This is as good a place as any to repeat the regularly unheeded point that none is another word that swings both ways.
Another reader bemoans one of our headlines, Whom would a Democratic president talk to? “It HURTS to see a headline end with a preposition,” she says.
I wish that I could relieve the pain, but there is no objection in idiomatic English, and never has been, to ending a sentence with a preposition. That superstition, along with the bogus prohibition on splitting infinitives, has had a long span, with generations of English teachers and editors to blame. And even the complaining reader acknowledges that With whom would a Democratic president talk? “sounds a little stilted.”
It takes considerable time and energy to keep real mistakes out of the paper, and we don’t catch all of them. We don’t have time — or interest — in addressing things that aren’t mistakes in the first place.