Copy editors are often accused of being borderline neurotic about mistakes. We wake up in the middle of our sleep with the sudden fear that we have neglected to fix an error or, worse, made an error. We check and recheck and have other people check and double-check. This is a good quality in a copy editor. You can never be too careful.
Case in point: See the photo caption below. It appeared on the Life, etc., front Thursday. In even more haste than usual during that section’s production, I edited and rewrote that caption, introducing one error and overlooking another.
You can surely spot the two subject-verb agreement errors: The verb should be is in the first sentence because the subject is singular (“locker room”). In the second sentence the verb should be works because when or joins a plural noun (“wipes”) and a singular noun (“washcloth”) the verb should agree with the nearer subject.
Here are the permutations of the caption that happened in a short time on Wednesday.
The caption originally said this:
Again, a locker room and shower is nice after a good workout. Wet wipes or a damp washcloth stored in a baggy also work well at containing an after-workout glow.
I changed it to this:
A locker room and shower are nice after a good workout. But in a pitch wet wipes or a damp washcloth stored in a reclosable plastic bag also work well at containing an after-workout glow.
Right on deadline, I realized I needed to smooth out the syntax a bit, to make the caption fit in the space better and to fix my typo (I had meant to type “pinch” rather than “pitch”). This is the edited version as it appeared in print:
A locker room with showers are nice after a good workout. But wet wipes or a damp washcloth stored in a reclosable plastic bag work well to mop your post-exercise dampness.
I was careless, and errors resulted.
This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.