New York’s Subways

Short Pencil Point Deviant Art okInstant Quiz 

Can you correct the error in the sentence below? Scroll to the bottom of today’s post for the answer.

Safety is our principle concern as we implement the new policy.


Let’s spend a couple of minutes celebrating good writing.

A friend saves her old copies of the New York Times Magazine and Book Review for me so that I can lug them home and read them at my leisure. They’re always good reading, and sometimes an article crosses the line into the spectacular category.

That brings us to “The Case for the Subway” by Jonathan Mahler in the January 7, 2018 issue. The research in the article is astounding. Mahler covered facts and issues that I would never have thought of – and then organized them into a supremely readable article.

Take a look at this paragraph. This, my friends, is what you and I should be aiming to achieve in our own writing endeavors: 

Today, New York’s subway carries close to six million people every day, more than twice the entire population of Chicago. The subway may no longer be a technological marvel, but it continues to perform a daily magic trick: It brings people together, but it also spreads people out. It is this paradox — these constant expansions and contractions, like a beating heart — that keep the human capital flowing and the city growing. New York’s subway has no zones and no hours of operation. It connects rich and poor neighborhoods alike. The subway has never been segregated. It is always open, and the fare is always the same no matter how far you need to go. In New York, movement — anywhere, anytime — is a right.

Mahler’s writing is alive. We see a beating heart and a magic trick. The teeming population of New York comes together and spreads apart. And then we come to the the exquisite closing sentence: “In New York, movement — anywhere, anytime — is a right.”

 Did you notice that there’s not a single French or Latin word in that last sentence? It’s all English. Mahler is describing a “technological marvel,” but there’s a refreshing absence of jargon.

I hope you’re inspired. I know I am.



Instant Quiz ANSWER

The word needed in today’s sentence is principal. Here’s a trick that can help: when you mean rule, spell principle with an –le at the end. rule  principle

The rest of the time it should end in pal: principal – and that’s how we need to spell it in today’s sentence:

Safety is our principal concern as we implement the new policy.  CORRECT

What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You is available in paperback and Kindle formats from and other online booksellers.
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