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.