Did ‘Jeopardy’-crushing copy editor make — gasp — a grammatical error?

Danny Groner says Dan Adkison, the Time magazine copy editor who is currently laying waste to the competition on “Jeopardy,” committed a grammatical error while discussing the advantages his job bestows on him: “The reason copy editors are good at Jeopardy is because we read so many different things,” Adkison told his magazine’s Tumblr for a post called “Proof Copy Editors Are the Smartest People in Any Newsroom.”

“Dan’s quote should grammatically be ‘The reason copy editors are good at Jeopardy is THAT we read so many different things,’” Groner writes.

Hey Danny, didn’t you just split an infinitive there? No time for that debate, though: This issue requires the attention of Baltimore Sun copy-editing guru John E. McIntyre stat! I emailed the stylebook-with-a-pulse, asking whether saying “the reason is because” is an error or, like the previously non-standard use of “hopefully,” a bugaboo. McIntyre replies:

More a bugaboo than an error. Bryan Garner calls “the reason is because” a loose construction and quotes R.W. Burchfield saying that it “aches with redundancy.” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, which devotes more than two double-columned pages to the subject (!), has citations of the construction from, among others, Francis Bacon, Jonathan Swift, and Ernest Hemingway. MWDEU concludes that it “has been attested in literary use for about three and a half centuries. It has been the subject of denigration for more than two centuries.” So you pays your money and takes your chances.

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  • http://www.mediaite.com/tag/panel-nerds/ Danny Groner

    +1

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Ollier-Weber/1226898860 David Ollier Weber

    Um… “should… be” is not an infinitive, for God’s sake.

  • Anonymous

    “Dan’s quote should grammatically be ‘The reason copy editors are good at Jeopardy is THAT we read so many different things,’” Groner writes.
    I’ll take “Hideously Anal-Retentive Copy Editing Comments” for $800, Alex…

  • Anonymous

    O snap! That is right!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SKPAW6NMWWIFHCSR6NUUX5QJXQ Gary

    Never mind that everyone here seems to have missed the fact — see previous link to Facts obit — that name of the show is “Jeopardy!”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/SKPAW6NMWWIFHCSR6NUUX5QJXQ Gary

    Never mind that everyone here seems to have missed the fact — see previous link to Facts obit — that name of the show is “Jeopardy!”

  • http://www.mediaite.com/tag/panel-nerds/ Danny Groner

    +2. If we take the time to read what people say, then we might discover they may actually be agreeing with us.

  • http://twitter.com/whichthat Tom Madigan

    I’m loath to stop a good peeve hunt, but Groner gave the best response to his own comment in his original post:

    “Chalk it up to a colloquialism. Different standards in print and in person, no doubt.”

    +1

  • http://twitter.com/writeahead Write Ahead

    Even copy editors make mistakes. Also, we speak differently than we write; I agree with Frank’s comment that in an interview situation one is bound to diverge from the rules. I’m not sure why this is news, but it is amusing that the error was worthy of its own article. I suppose the intent is to point out the irony, but all it really says is that we’re all human and we all make mistakes. I have an editing business too, and even we (shock! Horror!) err from time to time. There are arguably several errors in what I’ve just written. But what’s more important: the meaning of the words, or the correctness of their usage?

  • http://www.mediaite.com/tag/panel-nerds/ Danny Groner

    Agreed. Articles are better when quotations sound natural and not overthought for the sake of the story.

  • http://www.mediaite.com/tag/panel-nerds/ Danny Groner

    Agreed. Articles are better when quotations sound natural and not overthought for the sake of the story.

  • Glenda Wolin

    …and then there’s the unnecessary use of “different.” The meaning would have been identical if he had used “we read so many things.” And it saves so much virtual ink! 

    But, as Frank Bond says, speaking extemporaneously is not the same as writing, in which case the writer has time to compose his thoughts and words. That’s why I tell my reporters to interview subjects in person or by phone instead of relying on emailed answers. In most cases, you want the off-the-cuff reaction. 

  • Glenda Wolin

    …and then there’s the unnecessary use of “different.” The meaning would have been identical if he had used “we read so many things.” And it saves so much virtual ink! 

    But, as Frank Bond says, speaking extemporaneously is not the same as writing, in which case the writer has time to compose his thoughts and words. That’s why I tell my reporters to interview subjects in person or by phone instead of relying on emailed answers. In most cases, you want the off-the-cuff reaction. 

  • http://www.mediaite.com/tag/panel-nerds/ Danny Groner
  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.busdeker Jon Busdeker

    More like most annoying in the newsroom. Kidding.

    Copy editor have saved me so many times I shouldn’t complain. Ann Marie Martin, copy editor at the Huntsville Times, must told me 10 times in her Southern twang, “You’re not a bad writer, but you just can’t spell.” I would have argued with her, but that’s pretty much accurate. 

  • Anonymous

    Yes, a bugaboo. But the redundancy is striking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Eaton/100002297402683 Paul Eaton

    Hey Groner: Get a life!

  • http://www.mediaite.com/tag/panel-nerds/ Danny Groner

    Good point, Frank. There’s clearly a difference in the standards we expect in print and in person, a point I made in my original remarks about it. I didn’t mean to call Dan out in a vicious way, more intended as a funny ironic note. I may have missed the mark with my tone if that didn’t come across when you read my comment. There’s no reason to change it now, but I’ll take note in my future writings to remember that even the smallest notes I put on the web are prone to be picked up by another site and scrutinized by commenters.

  • http://www.facebook.com/fbondini.bond Frank Bond

    Copy editors edit copy. This was an interview…answering a question without a script and extemporaneously. Spoken English is rife, RIFE I tell you, with errors in grammar, syntax, word usage, agreement in number, tense, gender. Unless the editor has some telemetry connected to the man’s brain, he’s on his own. And I believe that’s why there is a level of forgiveness in spoken English. We KNOW he knows better, and we’re ready to pounce on a critic in THAT moment! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/fbondini.bond Frank Bond

    Copy editors edit copy. This was an interview…answering a question without a script and extemporaneously. Spoken English is rife, RIFE I tell you, with errors in grammar, syntax, word usage, agreement in number, tense, gender. Unless the editor has some telemetry connected to the man’s brain, he’s on his own. And I believe that’s why there is a level of forgiveness in spoken English. We KNOW he knows better, and we’re ready to pounce on a critic in THAT moment! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/fbondini.bond Frank Bond

    Copy editors edit copy. This was an interview…answering a question without a script and extemporaneously. Spoken English is rife, RIFE I tell you, with errors in grammar, syntax, word usage, agreement in number, tense, gender. Unless the editor has some telemetry connected to the man’s brain, he’s on his own. And I believe that’s why there is a level of forgiveness in spoken English. We KNOW he knows better, and we’re ready to pounce on a critic in THAT moment! 

  • Anonymous

    I note that Grover made his error or bugaboo or whatever in a conversation. If some copy editor wants to fix the grammar in my writing, fine. Have at it. But following me around and correcting my conversation — well, that’s just weird.