Unlike errors of fact, errors of grammar are not formally corrected on either Page 2 of the newspaper or online. But they can still be cringe-inducing for the writers. In the past few weeks, I had two readers very kindly point out to me that I was wrong in a recent column on Rob Ford. I wrote: “He noted that the investigation that lead to the drug charges ...”
One reader said, “I think the use of ‘lead’ is a mistake. I think you meant ‘led,’ the past tense of lead. But this is something I see so often I’ve started to wonder whether I’m right.” Yes she is right and I was wrong. While the lead in a pencil is pronounced led, the past tense of the verb to lead is led, rhyming with bed, not lead rhyming with bead.
Another recent error was the description of John F. Kennedy’s “grizzly end.” There was some fun had by readers who wondered if the bear was part of a new conspiracy theory, but of course the writer meant grisly.
Now those are words we should know how to spell. But how about concatenation? That’s not a word that trips lightly from me. One reader wrote about a story that called DePalma’s film Blow Out a “heady concatenation.” Two pages later, a columnist says Jeremy Irons interviews with a “concatenation of candour.”
“Are they stocking Word of the Day toilet paper in the Globe and Mail bathrooms again?” the reader wondered.
Lastly, on the question of correcting factual errors, our readers are very sharp and notice both the big words, grammatical errors and inconsistencies in stories.
Two examples from the past few weeks. One reader wrote to me about the Rob Ford poll story. The reader wondered about the story and headline. “I was puzzled by its downplaying of the result that 60 per cent of respondents want Ford to resign. It’s also not clear to me that an approval rating that has slipped only slightly can therefore be called ‘strong.’ Would a rating that slipped only from 20 per cent to 19 per cent – when more had been expected – be called strong?”
Those were excellent questions, sent to the reporter, and I think there was a better explanation in the updated version.
Another questioned the article about Justin Trudeau discussing marijuana legislation with students: Just how old are these students?
“The story page caption reads ‘school pupils.’ The link reads ‘elementary students’. … your story reports that ‘Jillian Austin, a reporter for the Brandon Sun newspaper, was at the Trudeau event this week and said the Liberal leader spoke to a group of teens...’. Teens are not exactly elementary students.”
The reader was right and that story was recast.
If you see anything that leaves you puzzled, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org