Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Self-Examination: Did the Proofreader Screw Up?

Does the Proofreader dare disturb the universe? Yes, that's the very nature of his undertaking. At least, the potential disturbance of the printed universe is a risk of (sometimes gleefully) pointing out the mistakes of others. And the Proofreader is susceptible to making mistakes too, especially since he has no editors checking his work. But in a minute there is time for decisions and revisions, which some readers would prefer to reverse.

Several readers have e-mailed and a few have commented that the Proofreader bungled the choice of a word in a February 4th post about sloppy copy on The Drudge Report. As you can see in the highlighted screen shot above, the Proofreader wrote, "Recently, though, less errors and typos..." Readers who've e-mailed and commented have contended that the word "fewer" should have been used instead of "less." The Proofreader responded by citing the "fewer/less" entry on page 31 of The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage as his reasoning behind the choice of less. Still, people weren't satisfied and some were annoyed.

A reader, John, e-mailed, "Shouldn't you be adding yourself to your list of Poor spelling (24) ? Or at least including a new section of errors (maybe just for yourselves... ) - wrong words"

So, did the Proofreader screw up? He leaves the answer to that question up to the people. Please chime in with your analysis. Perhaps an editor from The New York Times will take a moment to make a ruling. If the Proofreader made a mistake, he will cop to it.


Laura Payne said...

I'm not sure I understand what you mean by "the nature of The Drudge Report" and how the "nature" would influence whether or not mistakes can be counted "one by one." It seems to me that mistakes are always countable "one one by one" - unless, of course, the document in which the mistakes occur goes on and on forever, then I suppose the number of mistakes could be infinite.

My vote goes to "fewer."

22 said...


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