Handgrenade of the Month
The Lost Art of Editing
John T. Kuehn
Exhibit A for the prosecution: Army History Magazine, Winter 2016 issue, published by the Center of Military.
This is a fine magazine/journal and almost always presents high quality scholarship and book reviews in its issues, but…
One finds the following on page 32-33 about the operations of Nathanial Greene AFTER Yorktown and after his own battle at Eutaw Springs (a tactical defeat but an operational victory).
“Greene had also received reports of a South Carolina Loyalist militia raid from Charlestown into western parts of the state. Lead by Loyalist militia Brig. General Robert Cunningham, Col. Hezekiah Williams…were formed with British license to raid deep into South Carolina’s backcountry.” (32-33)
See it? Okay, yes, passive voice is present, but the verb/noun LEAD represents the real problem, the most egregious error. It should be led, the past tend of the verb “to lead.” Certainly the author and the editors did not intend for the element lead (Pb) to be used here.
One reason I recognized this so quickly---I see this particular error all the time in papers I grade. It is an easy mistake to make but a very easy one to fix given that the syntax for the verb form should be incorrect and picked up by most grammar or spell checking programs. I think it represents a trend of shoddy editing throughout the historical profession. Authors, of course, are ultimately responsible, but good editors at big publishing houses, and not so big, should catch these sorts of mistakes, it is part of what they should get paid to dor. I say should, because more and more the publishing world has eliminated, marginalized, and minimized editorial presence in published works, whether books, online, or in journals. The public is also to blame because they accept, more and more, this sort of shoddy work. Ah for the days of being able to read grammatically correct text for pages and pages, and sometimes for the entire article or book. Maybe this is one reason students make these errors so much, they see it in their reading so why should they write any better?