Error about E.B. White leads to timeless New York Times correction

Ben Yagoda wrote a history of The New Yorker magazine, and in that book he refers to E.B. White as New Yorker editor Harold Ross’ “most valued contributor.”

White also provided a great quote for a piece Yagoda published about commas on The New York Times website this week.

“Commas in The New Yorker fall with the precision of knives in a circus act, outlining the victim,” White once said.

A lovely image, to be sure. But it’s rivaled by the correction about White that was later added to Yagoda’s piece:

Correction: An earlier version of this article misidentified the number of years E.B. White wrote for The New Yorker. It was five decades, not centuries.

I asked Yagoda if the mistake was his, or if it was inserted by an editor.

“Craig, I appreciate your courteous question … but can you really imagine that an editor would insert that?” he replied by email. “Simple explanation: I goofed by letting a common phrase roll off my fingers. And it’s so common that it just slipped by all the editors.”

On the plus side, I told Yagoda, his error gave birth to a timeless correction.

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  • Anonymous

    great post ! long live gaffes!