More on proofing errors

Dear Editor,

I followed a letter about proofreading and what it entails (‘Too many proofreading errors’ SN, June 11). The letter was directed at staff members of Stabroek News and it had a well-meaning intent. That writer was very peeved at the failure to adhere to established norms regarding, symbols and capitalization when reporting technical issues. I add in this little piece a related issue that I think is much more important.

With reference to the excerpt: “The Inter-Guiana Games (IGG) Track and Field Championships have been postponed to August 20 after a number of deliberations by the relevant authorities.” The verb ‘have’ is totally wrong. Like the Olympics or Olympic Games, we are talking about a single event, comprising a number of individual competitions, and not about the separate, individual games. Unless we are talking about a number of different Inter Guiana Games, the subject is clearly singular.

I recall reading about “… a majority of swimmers is …” and this too is grossly wrong. Just check and see if we will refer to this “majority of swimmers is” as ‘it’ or ‘they’ and ‘them.’ So we need to be careful about our subject-verb agreement. When I read and listen to what passes for Standard English, I realize that in Guyana, we have a serious problem.

Moving to the level of the word, I overheard ‘sov-ri-ni-ty’ of Guyana, and this came from some people who are in high positions. I also heard a sports personality mess up with Glamorgan, Warwickshire and Jayasuriya. This person is definitely not on top of his job. Let us be reminded that language is transmitted and if inaccuracies are coming from ‘on high’ then we will be saturated with errors in pronunciation and writing.

Teachers, media personnel, politicians, deejays and parliamentarians – yes the whole flock, please be reminded that there is a thing called ‘standard.’


Yours faithfully,
Mattieu Singh


Editor’s note

1. It was the ‘Track and Field Championships’ not the ‘Inter-Guiana Games’ which determined that the verb should be plural.

2. The collective noun ‘majority’ can take either a singular or a plural verb depending on the context.

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