If I had one wish for the media, it would be to restore the long-lost position of copy editors — the unseen wizards who made reporters look smarter than they really were and could craft the pithiest of headlines. Had a copy editor been at the desk, Matthew Tully’s July 3 Indianapolis Star column wouldn’t have been headed by “We all payed for Luck’s contract, Prince guitar”. The right word for the past tense of “pay” is “paid.” Yes, “payed” can be a past tense for “pay,” but only when referring to the process through which you slowly release something like an anchor rope or a winch cable. You can “pay out” a boat’s anchor and write that you “payed it out,” but if you purchase chewing gum at the convenience store and write that you “payed” for it, it looks like you made a mistake. Because you did.
Eight days later, there was another wrong word in the Star — this time, I suspect it was one of those spellchecker mistakes that a human eye would have caught, had a human eye been enlisted to review it. A caption in a story about a potential scandal involving a Muncie police officer and a local gun dealer made reference to Muncie’s “sanity district.” While many taxpayers may hope that their local governments include an agency focused on lucidity, the caption should have mentioned the Sanitary District.
In its August 8 “Forefront” opinion section, the Indianapolis Business Journal headlined Mitch Roob’s column with “A frustrated populous leads to revolution.” “Populous” is an adjective meaning “densely populated,” so it makes no sense here. I’m sure either the writer or the section’s editor was thinking of the noun form, spelled “populace,” which refers to a large group of people, such as a nation’s citizens. True, they sound identical, but they’re very different words.
The broadcast media aren’t immune. A WFYI Education Blog piece on Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb discusses his role in Mike Pence’s education policy by noting “Holcomb, 48, has not been apart of those battles — he’s only been lieutenant governor for four months.” I’m assuming (and hoping) the writer meant “a part” and not “apart.”
Yes, most people (including me) make mistakes and typos from time to time, but when it comes to professionals in the media, expectations are (and should be) much higher. I appreciate the immediacy of today’s journalism, but I’d feel a whole lot better if everyone took an extra minute or two to make sure things were correct before they published them.