Sylvia Stead on the grammatical errors caught by readers of The Globe and Mail.

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Globe and Mail readers are very well-read and, rightly so, are sticklers for good grammar. Not a week goes by without a few notes. This month, one reader asked writers to “please stop the redundancy” by adding “why” after “the reasons.”

One man despaired over the mixing up of flout and flaunt. “If we mix up the two words, soon the distinction will be lost and neither word will mean anything.”

Another marvelled at this sentence: “Although he lost his mother to lymphoma at the age of 11, as a scientist [Dr.] Allison did not at first set out to cure cancer.”

So, the reader said, “By age 11 she was not only a mother but had succumbed to cancer? I think in elementary school we called this a misplaced modifier. … With sympathy for the task you folks have as editors!”

Some readers are more exasperated than amused. One wrote, “You’ve got to be kidding me” before listing a few grammatical and spelling mishaps in The Globe.

There was this online caption for a photo of polar bears: “Meet the newest residence” of the zoo. Spellcheck, of course, doesn’t catch the fact that bears are more likely to be residents. That error had been caught and fixed before the reader’s e-mail arrived.

Also in his list were a few apostrophe errors, including this recent confusing online headline: “Despite plunging ruble, sputtering economy, Russian’s still back Putin.” Oops. This was also caught and fixed quickly.

The readers I hear from understand that typos and mistakes happen, but it drives them to distraction to see basic grammar lessons forgotten in Canada’s national newspaper. And not a week goes by that I don’t hear from them.

Below are a few of the most egregious irritants that have been sent to me over the past year.

The apostrophe

“Do Globe editors and writers really not know how to use an apostrophe?” one reader asked. “Consider these two [online] headlines from the past 24 hours: ‘The jet-setters guide to Canadian literary festivals’ and ‘Tromping of Rangers shows its too early to judge Maple Leafs.’

Of course, you see what is wrong here. The jet-setters needed an apostrophe to show that it is their guide, while the “its” in the Rangers headline should have been “it’s,” a shortened version of “it is,” not the possessive of “it.”

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