In “Judgment Day” (Copyediting, February–March 2014), newsletter contributor Daniel Sosnoski discusses some of the judgment calls copyeditors have to make, including how to deal with a quote that contains an error.
For an example, Sosnoski offers Moving our print properties to digital versions was an economical decision, in which economical should be economic.
Given the limits of this plan, the alternative proposal seems more practical.
She correctly identified given the limits of this plan as an absolute participial phrase and an exception to the dangling participle rule. She wanted to know, however, if an absolute phrase could ever be used incorrectly and how editors could tell if it were.
It’s a basic rule of grammar that a subject and its verb must agree in number:
The cake is delicious. The pies are delicious. None are calorie free.
You were probably taught, as I was, that none is a singular pronoun because it stands for “no one” and as such takes a singular verb. Yet in the examples, none clearly refers to the cake and the pies, or “not any.” How can none, and other indefinite pronouns, sometimes be singular and sometimes plural?
Here’s a question for all the business copyeditors in the room:
When your text deals with a business-to-business (B2B) relationship, who is the customer: the company that pays the bills, the individual who is the main contact point, or the team that ends up working on the project?
I see this problem a lot in business copy. Even the author isn’t always sure who customer (or client or something similar) refers to, and the result is a muddle of pronouns for one word. The customer is an it in one sentence and a they in the next.