That’s right, unlike the leader of free world, my authority is above question. That’s because I’m a member of a group so elite, so above doubt that people take every word we say as absolute gospel — a group known as grammar book authors.
For reasons I can’t figure out, grammar evokes less skepticism than any other topic. So a piddling claim to authority on this subject is enough to get people to believe anything you say about it.
Truth be known, the seemingly elite club will admit just about anyone. Me, I gained membership armed with little more than a crayon and the shamelessness to ride on Lynne Truss’ coattails. Still, because of one unimpressive distinction, people take me at my word on the subject of words.
This disturbing reality came to my attention recently when I got an email from a friend named Tracy. She’s a copywriter and editor who’s been honing her craft for decades. She has no trouble choosing between “a majority of patients are” and “a majority of patients is.” The plural verb “are,” Tracy knows, is better in this context than the singular verb “is.”
The trouble was, her client wasn’t buying it. Despite all Tracy’s years in the business and all her expertise, the client wouldn’t accept that Tracy was right.
These situations used to frustrate her. But not anymore. Now she knows exactly what to do: She just emails me her question and passes my answer along to the client. Then and only then will the client accept that Tracy — who probably knows more about grammar and editing than I do — was right all along.