Editing Two Sentences

Both today’s newspaper and yesterday’s featured sentences with interesting errors. Why do I find them interesting? They’re mistakes that only sophisticated writers make – people trying so hard to get it right that they end up getting it wrong.

The first sentence comes from, Andres Oppenheimer’s October 12 column about Mexico’s political gridlock:

A group of 46 high-profile Mexican politicians and academics from across the ideological spectrum shook this country earlier this week with a daring proposal to end Mexico’s political gridlock: forcing whomever is elected president in 2012 to form a coalition government.

Did you spot it?

The problem is whomever. (Sigh. Any time you come across the word whomever, you can just about guarantee that it’s the wrong word.)

Use the “he for who, him for whom” system. (Try plugging he and him into the sentence you’re working with. If he sounds better, use who or whoever. If him works better, use whom or whomever).

Let’s try it:

…he is elected president in 2012

(You wouldn’t say “him is elected president in 2012,” would you?)

So who (or whoever – same thing) is correct. Here’s the corrected sentence:

A group of 46 high-profile Mexican politicians and academics from across the ideological spectrum shook this country earlier this week with a daring proposal to end Mexico’s political gridlock: forcing whoever is elected president in 2012 to form a coalition government.  CORRECT

Now let’s look at the other problem sentence. This one is from an article about Legoland, a new theme park that opened in Central Florida today. Here’s a sentence about The Ford Driving School, an activity that children are sure to enjoy:

It’s one of the few rides in Central Florida that puts children in full control of their ride experience.

Did you spot the error in this one?

“Puts” should be “put.” Here’s the corrected sentence (notice that it’s rides, not ride, that put children in full control):

It’s one of the few rides in Central Florida that put children in full control of their ride experience.  CORRECT

If you’re having doubts, compare the two sentences below:

It’s one of the few rides in Central Florida that put children in full control of their ride experience. (This sentence is about rides, so put is correct)

It’s a ride in Central Florida that puts children in full control of their ride experience. (This sentence is about a ride, so puts is correct.)

Editors beware! Sometimes it’s all too easy for errors to creep in when you least expect them.

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