If and When

I always look forward to opening my mailbox and finding the latest copy of The New Yorker magazine there. The articles and reviews are fun to read, and an additional bonus is the meticulous care that the writers and editors bring to their work.

For example, I always look for the dieresis in coöperate. Hardly anyone else still uses it (I confess that I dropped the dieresis decades ago), but I always get this warm feeling: Someone cares! (For the record, I’m one of very few people who still use an apostrophe in Hallowe’en.)

So it was a shock to come across this sentence in the September 20 issue (“The Face of Facebook”):

If and when Facebook decides to go public, Zuckerberg will become one of the richest men on the planet, and one of the youngest billionaires.

“If” includes “when.” The sentence should read, “If Facebook decides to go public….”

Maybe we should all take heart: Even the meticulous New Yorker is capable of a lapse now and then. It’s ok to be human (especially if you’re still using those beautiful umlauts!).

[P.S. I chose a risky construction for this sentence: Im one of very few people who still use an apostrophe in Hallowe’en.

Many people would make it “still uses.” My reasoning is that I’ve put together two sentences that read like this:

I’m one of very few people. Those people still use an apostrophe in Hallowe’en.

You can read more about this debate by clicking here and reading Rule 6.]


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