Main units:

  • Verbal Agreements
  • Placement Services
  • Pronouns Are Not for Amateurs (forthcoming October 2017)
  • Countererrorist Measures (forthcoming November 2017)
  • The Comma-ist Manifesto (forthcoming December 2017)
  • Punctuational Punctilio (forthcoming January 2018)
  • A Miscellany of Malpractice (forthcoming February 2018)
>   VERBAL AGREEMENTS [Errors in Subject-Verb Agreement]
 
1.  Don’t let the object of a preposition become the object of your affection.
2.  My mother, in addition to her mother, as well as my dearest aunt, along with her son, plus my only surviving uncle, not to mention my three nieces, is—not are—invited to learn this rule.
3.  Don’t let complements go to your head.
4.  Disagreeable Appositives
5.  Putting One and One Together
6.  Neither he nor she agree on whether this sentence is correct.
7.  Arse-Backwards Sentences
8.  There, there.
9.  Adjectival dependent clauses are a grammatical construction that lead many writers to commit subject-verb-agreement errors, like the one in this sentence.
10.  The Lonesome One
11.  Either of these sentences are wrong. Neither of these sentences are correct.
12.  To each her own singular verb.
13.  Number-Crunching
14.  More than one writer—don’t let it be you!—are likely to miss the error in this sentence. If you think your editor, not you, are going to be held responsible, think again.  
15.  Twelve percent of the readership of this book find nothing ungrammatical about this sentence.
16.  More errors like these means more slipshoddiness in newspapers and magazines.
17.  You can be one of the few writers who understands what is wrong with this sentence.
18.  My family is recovering from my bad grammar. No, wait: My family are recovering from my bad grammar?
19.  Couples in Crisis

  ^^   1 

Don’t let the object of a preposition become the object of your affection.


A lone noun serving as the subject of a clause is often followed by at least one prepositional phrase, whose purpose is to add details or texture to the statement. Each of those prepositional phrases trailing behind the subject will have at least one noun or pronoun functioning as the object of the preposition. Unfortunately, a writer can easily mistake any of those objects for the subject of the clause, especially when an object is the noun or pronoun appearing immediately before the verb.
     The verb of a clause must agree in number with the subject, not with an object. With rare exceptions (discussed in Chapter 15), the object of a preposition does not determine the singularity or plurality of the verb; the singularity or plurality of the subject alone makes that determination. So it’s best to develop the habit of not giving prepositional phrases the time of day. If you keep your eye on the subject, you’re sure to choose the appropriate form of the verb.
     Below are sentences in which writers lost track of the subjects and were thrown off by objects of prepositions trying to hog the spotlight. As a result, the writers committed errors in subject-verb agreement. In each example, the subject of the troublesome clause is boldfaced, the one or more distracting prepositional phrases are underlined, and the erroneous verb is italicized. The plural verb in each excerpt must be singularized.

Studies suggest that Millennials are less interested in owning cars than previous generations have been, and the success of sites such as Netflix and Spotify show that, at least with some goods, renting can trump ownership. (New Yorker)

Her interest in issues of identity and community provide useful, if tenuous, links between series of starkly different topics and styles. (New Yorker)
Stark’s new show of sculpturally collaged works on paper, mostly white but splashed with plumage-like color, explore a vanishing pink-collar world. (New Yorker)   
Even if Faulkner isn’t your thing, or if confusion of characters and time frames aren’t, either, it’s important to see the piece, if only to understand how scripts work—and how they transform the actors in the space of the stage. (New Yorker)
Her [Lena Dunham’s] blunt candor about relationships, politics and culture make her other TV peers seem hopelessly lame and shticky. (Rolling Stone)
But the combination of Collins’s age and the financial complexities are impossible to ignore. (New York Times)
The pianist hadn’t composed the melodies or lyrics, but the body of the songs were there, along with the central riffs and structure. (Bruce [Touchstone], by Peter Ames Carlin)
[Stanley] Fish’s role in subverting these hierarchies of the ancien régime are an important clue to his role in the minority victim’s revolution on campus. (Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus [Free Press], by Dinesh D’Souza)
Further evidence for these unconscious attitudes toward race come from implicit association tests, a window into how our unconscious minds work. (New York Times)
And last year, denim in the colors of Skittles candies, like green and red, were inescapable. (New York Times)
Our order of fluffy Parker House steamed buns (with a filling of butternut squash and shiitake) were technically perfect, however, and so was the excellent Jian Bing crêpe, which is crisp and tubular, like an Indian dosa, and stuffed with ropy deposits of braised beef. (New York)
From the naturalistic to the experimental, this new collection of short stories prove an enigmatic author’s ability to shape-shift. (Time Out New York)
And all too often, Ms. Moore’s custom blend of jokes, inner road maps and social observation devolve into what read like imitation Lorrie Moore stories. (New York Times)
This one-sided reading list seems to falsely imply that the breadth of views about women’s roles in society are reflected in the course. (Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus [Free Press], by Dinesh D’Souza)
The immense variation of pricing strategies in so many markets make movie ticket prices look like one big pricing puzzle mainly for the virtual absence of variation in ticket prices for different first-run movies in the same theaters and even across theaters in the same geographic markets. (Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, and Other Pricing Puzzles [Copernicus], by Richard B. McKenzie) [A hyphen is needed between movie and ticket; see Chapter 86.]
To his detractors, Mr. Lowery is a divisive ranter who pines for a lost, pre-Internet economy. But his knowledge of legal and technological minutiae—he is a lecturer at the University of Georgia’s music business program—make his arguments hard to dismiss. (New York Times) [A hyphen needs to be inserted between music and business; see Chapter 86.]
Mr. Giuliani’s precipitous decline in national and state polls in recent weeks have prompted many of his leading supporters in the metropolitan area to raise questions about his strategy of largely ignoring early races in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan to focus on Florida. (New York Times)
IPods and other media players come with basic earphones, but the expanded menu of music and video apps now available encourage people to replace those with higher-quality headphones. (New York Times)
The tenor of justices’ questions are not always a reliable guide to their thinking. (New York Times)
Mr. McDonnell said a confluence of trends, from heightened interest in whole and natural foods to growing concerns about medical problems like diabetes, obesity and gluten allergies, were contributing to the demand for antibiotic-free meat. (New York Times)
The heavy, warped sound of “Rated R” and “Songs for the Deafhave been hugely influential on the alt-rock scene. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
The performance of Master Joelsas and Ms. Piepszyk demonstrate once more that this is the golden age of child performers here and abroad. (New York Observer)
While an influx of Yankees (particularly those from New York and Connecticut), Midwesterners and even Californians have changed Beaufort’s physical and cultural landscape, many of those who have bought second homes or retired there have become as protective as Beaufort’s genteel old guard of the area’s charming architecture, walkable streets and pristine wild places. (New York Times)
While luxury goods had proven more resilient amid last year’s shopping malaise, recent weakness at brands like Tiffany and Coach have spurred worries that well-heeled shoppers are now reining in spending. (New York Post)
At Egalia, one model Stockholm preschool, everything from the decoration to the books and toys are carefully selected to promote a gender-equal perspective and to avoid traditional presentations of gender and parenting roles. (slate.com)
Information on procedures, fees, advisory legal opinions and decisions are to be showcased on a state-maintained Web site, and the governor is required to appoint an executive director, who will serve as head of the agency for six years, limited to two terms. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Anxiety among U.S. voters over unemployment, lower housing values and investment losses have emboldened government leaders to roll back pensions of even the most popular government workers, says Tracy Gordon, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
Moreover, O’Hara’s unerring sensitivity to the social locus of his character, to the paraphernalia of Hague’s bourgeois existence ground these thematic abstractions in a solidly explicit milieu. (Charles W. Bassett, in John O’Hara: A Study of the Short Fiction [Twayne], by Steven Goldleaf) [Asymmetrical punctuation further weakens the sentence; see Chapter 80.]
While the relationship between loneliness, depression, and suicide is complex—in the Quebec study, feeling both lonely and depressed carried the highest suicide risk—the significance of loneliness and isolation as risk factors for suicide have long been recognized by mental health professionals. (Lonely: A Memoir [Harper], by Emily White) [Insert a hyphen between mental and health; see Chapter 86.]
Menu items and accoutrements vary by season, such as the sauce for fried chicken, which include this month’s spiked papaya or last month’s lime habanero concoction. Produce from the Penn’s Corner Farm Alliance, McConnell’s and Millers Farms drive transitions. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) [The first sentence of the excerpt suffers from a laggard modifier; see Chapter 23.]
The intellectual and sonic richness of this veteran New York pianist’s performances are not easily ignored. (New Yorker) [Perhaps the writer of this sentence intended the reader to regard the subject as a compressed form of the intellectual richness and the sonic richness—in which case the verb is correctly plural. (See the side note to Chapter 5.) If such was the writer’s intention, however, why not simply substitute riches or richnesses for richness?]

In the next example, the prepositional phrase whose plural object (dealings) has led the writer astray is followed by a participial phrase (which has been bracketed) and by an appositive phrase (which has been set off by braces).

The fine print of his financial dealings, [documented by Elizabeth Ann Coleman], {the curator of an important James show at the Brooklyn Museum in 1982}, trace the death spiral of a grandiose enterprise out of control. (New Yorker)

Sometimes, a prepositional phrase might be followed by an adjectival dependent clause, as in the two following sentences (the dependent clauses have been bracketed).

The sense of bleakness and isolation [which Keith captured on those final photos on Hampstead Heath] are coloured retrospectively by the knowledge that it would be Nick’s last-ever photo session. (Nick Drake [Bloomsbury], by Patrick Humphries)
Or, perhaps, she wanted to marry Jack but saw clearly that the combined force of her mother and Stanny, [each of whom had controlled her life until this point], were not going to allow that to happen. (American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the “It” Girl, and the Crime of the Century [Riverhead], by Paula Uruburu)

Far less often, writers mistakenly choose a singular verb when a subject followed by one or more prepositional phrases is plural.

All too often, the claims of American intellectuals about the “anti-intellectualism” of our national life is a form of special pleading masquerading as a concern for the public interest. (Wall Street Journal)
Word is getting through that law school is no longer a safe place to sit out an economic downturn—an article of faith for years—and that strong grades at an above-average school no longer guarantees a six-figure law firm job. (New York Times) [Insert a hyphen between law and firm; see Chapter 86. Troubled by the flimsy relation of the appositive an article of faith for years to the phrasing preceding it? See Chapter 28.]
Before Midnight is too frank and funny to ever be a drag, but it confronts head on something true believers in the earlier films has had to or will have to face, the possibility that even the most exciting love affair grows tired. (Time)
The roots of Seattle’s strength in cloud computing, longtime observers say, goes back to the mid-1990s, when Microsoft, long the sole big power in Seattle tech, began doing extensive work in distributed computing, or making computers work together in problem solving. (New York Times)
Sometimes an infinitive—the stem of a verb preceded by the word to (not functioning prepositionally)—follows the subject of a clause and precedes one or more prepositional phrases. The infinitive in the following sentence is bracketed, and the italicized verb must be singularized.
The decision to marry someone of a similar educational status is called assortative mating, and for black Americans—particularly black women—the ability [to participate] in such forms of marital selection are slimmer than they are for women of other races. (theatlantic.com)
It’s sometimes difficult to tell whether a writer intends a noun to be read as the second object of a preposition or as the second part of a two-part subject of a verb.
[about a work by the filmmaker Dara Friedman] “Mother Drum” transcends documentary; the performances were choreographed for the camera, and the elegant use of color-blocks and other impressionistic effects lend the immersive projection about imperilled land a hypnotic artifice that becomes hyperreal. (New Yorker)

In the third independent clause (the elegant use of color-blocks and other impressionistic effects lend the immersive projection about imperilled land a hypnotic artifice), is effects the second object of the preposition of (whose first object is color-blocks), or are use and effects functioning as the compound subject of the verb lend?  Readers are likely to lean toward the first interpretation and expect the verb of the clause to be singular. To prevent any confusion, the writer might consider inserting a preposition before other impressionistic effects.

. . . the elegant use of color-blocks and of other impressionistic effects lends the immersive projection about imperilled land a hypnotic artifice that becomes hyperreal. OR [using a complex preposition (see Chapter 2)]: . . . the elegant use of color-blocks, as well as other impressionistic effects, lends the immersive projection about imperilled land a hypnotic artifice that becomes hyperreal.
 

^^   2

My mother, in addition to her mother, as well as my dearest aunt, along with her son, plus my only surviving uncle, not to mention my three nieces, is—not are—invited to learn this rule.

 

In Chapter 1, you learned to ignore objects of prepositions when you’re deciding whether the verb of a clause should be singular or plural. Most prepositions are single words, but our language also includes a few multiword prepositions, often called complex prepositions, which can cause writers much conjugational distress. The most common are in addition to, along with, and as well as. You must treat them like all other prepositions. The same is true of the prepositional use of plus (a word best avoided except in arithmetical contexts) and combined with, coupled with, and together with. Turn your back on the objects of multiword prepositions (and of any prepositional equivalents) when you’re conjugating verbs. The italicized verbs in the following excerpts are incorrect and must be singularized. Subjects are boldfaced; prepositional phrases are underlined.

Gospel, along with New Orleans jazz and R. & B., influence the work of the pianist and vocalist [Henry] Butler in profound ways, as he laces his playing with soulful flourishes. (New Yorker)
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, along with hotel groups and others in the tourist industry, back the changes, which include requiring all taxis to be no more than 11 years old as of this summer, and no more than seven years old by next year. (Wall Street Journal)
The date, along with evidence about her menstrual cycle and gynecological appointments, were evidence in the trial. (New York Times)
His money, along with $725,000 from Rachel Mellon, an heiress, are at the heart of Mr. Edwards’s indictment. (New York Times)
Their work, along with a slate of new articles and books, are part of what Amy Erdman Farrell, the author of the recently published “Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture,” calls “fat studies.” (New York Times)
[a sentence naming three novels] He laments that Dear Mr. Capote, along with the latter Peru and Zimzum, are little read today. (Newsweek)
Should Mr. [Donald] Fagen tire of the music biz he, along with Mr. [Ray] Davies and Mr. [Graham] Nash, have an excellent crack at endorsement deals from the manufacturers of adult diapers and other products for decaying oldsters.   (Wall Street Journal) [A comma would be helpful after biz.]
Wild Purveyors’s knotweed (it tastes like asparagus but grassier), along with the first morels of the season, were on menus at Pittsburgh’s most ambitious restaurants that night. (New York Times
At 837 Washington Street, Thor [Equities], which owns 75 percent of the development, along with its partner Taconic Investment Partners, are building a 55,000-square-foot office and retail property that is scheduled for completion this fall. (New York Times) [Company names ending in s or es are treated as singular; see side note 2 to Chapter 5. The adjectival compound office and retail should be hyphenated; see Chapter 86.]
The publishing industry, as well as some scholarly groups, have opposed some forms of open access, contending that free distribution of scholarly articles would ultimately eat away at journals’ value and wreck the existing business model. (New York Times)
But the obsession with video games, as well as the proliferation of Internet pornography and rise of the “man cave,” make sense when you think about it. (The War on Men [WND Books], by Suzanne Venker)
The inconsistent tone, as well as a curious political screed shoehorned midway into the story, make “Girlchild” an erratic reading experience. (Wall Street Journal)
This arrangement, plus a duplicate of Lennon’s lead vocal, were added on takes 9 and 10. (Revolution in the Head: The Beatles’ Records and the Sixties [Henry Holt], by Ian MacDonald)
When Bernstien arrived, she told him that her estate, plus any copyrights and royalties from her writings, were to go to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and in the event of his death, to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? [Penguin], by Marion Meade)
Naturally, they get caught. The Facebook stuff, plus security cameras, finally nail them. (Washington Post)
Widespread access to unhealthy foods, coupled with sedentary behavior brought on by wealth and the absence of a dieting and exercise culture, have caused obesity levels in Saudi Arabia and many other Gulf states to approach or even exceed those in Western countries. (Wall Street Journal)
Sales agents say a diaspora of Chinese citizens around the world, together with new distribution technologies, have made other markets more receptive to local Chinese films. (Wall Street Journal)
The widening Ebola epidemic in West Africa—combined with the fears generated by an Ebola patient who carried the virus to Dallashave led to calls for the United States to screen travelers when they reach American airports. (New York Times)
The introduction of new products, such as L’Oréal’s male deodorant for shaved armpits, combined with acquisitions such as Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club, the online razor subscription service, as well as the growth of small niche companies, all point to confidence in the longer-term success of the male grooming market. (Financial Times)
The introduction of new products, such as L’Oréal’s male deodorant for shaved armpits, combined with acquisitions such as Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club, the online razor-subscription service, as well as the growth of small niche companies, points to confidence in the longer-term success of the male-grooming market. OR [a recasting of the sentence with an additive-compound subject (see Chapter 5)]: The introduction of new products (such as L’Oréal’s male deodorant for shaved armpits), acquisitions such as Unilever’s purchase of Dollar Shave Club (the online razor-subscription service), and the growth of small niche companies all point to confidence in the longer-term success of the male-grooming market.

In the next example, the problem with subject-verb agreement is further compounded by the writer’s choice of the plural complement stories (see Chapter 3).

This [story], along with an unsold curio titled “The Sleeper Awakened,were the only stories from these months that would be included in his next (and final) collection, Earthly Creatures, though two uncollected pieces were also sold to Esquire for a relatively negligible sum ($250 each), “The Old War” and “Millstones.” (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey) 
This [story], along with an unsold curio titled “The Sleeper Awakened,” was the only short fiction from these months that would be included in his next (and final) collection. . . . OR: This [story] and an unsold curio titled “The Sleeper Awakened” were the only stories from these months that would be included in his next (and final) collection. . . .

It is preferable to use commas (or dashes or parentheses) to enclose any phrase that begins with a complex preposition.

Alien’s masquerade as well as his feud with a black gangster bring the film back to an earlier scene that indicates Mr. Korine has more on his mind than surface shocks. (New York Times)
Alien’s masquerade, as well as his feud with a black gangster, brings the film back to an earlier scene. . . .
Former Fast Retailing executives have said Mr. Yanai, who along with family members own more than a third of the company’s shares, wrestles with two sometimes opposing wishes: his eagerness to make a splashy deal in the U.S. and his refusal to pay a penny more than what he perceives to be fair value. (Wall Street Journal)
Former Fast Retailing executives have said Mr. Yanai, who, along with family members, owns more than a third of the company’s shares, wrestles with two sometimes opposing wishes. . . .
Public attention on the federal deficit combined with a series of politically incendiary missteps by NPR have given Republicans numerous opportunities to call for the elimination of government financing for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports local public stations. (New York Times)
Public attention on the federal deficit, combined with a series of politically incendiary missteps by NPR, has given Republicans numerous opportunities. . . .
The following three excerpts suffer not only from errors in subject-verb agreement but also from asymmetrical punctuation—punctuation at only one of the two ends of an interruptive element (see Chapter 80).
Surely that rendition [of the Rodgers and Hart song “Where or When”], along with the versions by Artie Shaw, Clifford Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Sinatra with Count Basie, and, more recently, the too-often unnoticed Tierney Sutton have earned the song an important place in the jazz repertoire. (The Atlantic
Surely that rendition—along with the versions by Artie Shaw, Clifford Brown, Ella Fitzgerald, Sonny Rollins, Sinatra with Count Basie, and, more recently, the too-often unnoticed Tierney Sutton—has earned the song an important place in the jazz repertoire.
 For starters, it seems fairly ridiculous to equip your 11- or 12-year-old with a full-fledged smartphone. Its myriad capabilities, combined with a child’s—let’s call it what it is—terrible judgment is a recipe for headaches at best. (New York Times)
Its myriad capabilities, combined with a child’s—let’s call it what it is—terrible judgment, are a recipe for headaches at best.
[the subject is followed by an appositive (see Chapter 4)] Moore’s choice of subject, a mythic mountain, as well as the poem’s length suggest the magnitude of her ambitions. (Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore [Farrar, Straus and Giroux], by Linda Leavell)
Moore’s choice of subject, a mythic mountain, as well as the poem’s length, suggests the magnitude of her ambitions.
   

The following example is complicated by the use of a multitasking dash (see Chapter 84).

Jackson’s first unpublished novel, Simple Simon—initially written as a three-act play with the same title—as well as a radio script and various Don and Bettina stories (published and not) all concern the central dilemma of an idealistic girl trying to chide a gifted young man out of his small-town complacency.  (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey)
 Jackson’s first unpublished novel, Simple Simon (initially written as a three-act play with the same title), as well as a radio script and various Don and Bettina stories (published and not), concerns the central dilemma of an idealistic girl. . . . OR: Jackson’s first unpublished novel, Simple Simon (initially written as a three-act play with the same title), a radio script, and various Don and Bettina stories (published and not) all concern the central dilemma of an idealistic girl. . . .
Any pronoun referring back to a singular subject in such a sentence must be singular as well. The plural pronoun their in the predicate of the following sentence is erroneous, because it has the singular noun weakness as its antecedent.
The region’s overall economic weakness as well as slowing demand in China and other big markets for German exports of consumer products, cars and sophisticated machine tools, industrial robots and construction equipment are finally taking their toll. (New York Times)
The region’s overall economic weakness—as well as slowing demand in China and other big markets for German exports of consumer products, cars and sophisticated machine tools, industrial robots, and construction equipment—is finally taking its toll.
Not only do prepositional phrases cause trouble with subject-verb agreement, but they also cause punctuational trouble (see Chapter 70).
The phrase not to mention behaves similarly to the other complex prepositions discussed above. The noun or nouns following the phrase have no influence on the singularity or plurality of the verb.
Now Citigroup’s direction, not to mention the CEO’s fate, are to a significant extent in the hands of the Fed. (Wall Street Journal)
Now Citigroup’s direction, not to mention the CEO’s fate, is to a significant extent in the hands of the Fed.
 

^^   3 

Don’t let complements go to your head.
 
We often write sentences whose message boils down to A = B, such as Kelsey is an endodontist. In that sentence, the subject (Kelsey) is being equated with another noun (endodonist) by a verb commonly known as a linking verb (is), though it seems more helpful to call it an equational verb, because it functions like an equal sign. The noun equated with the subject by the equational verb is called a complement. (A complement is something that completes something else; we say, for instance, that a particular bracelet is the perfect complement to a blouse.)
     A complement is a highly visible noun that often monopolizes a writer’s attention when the time comes to conjugate the verb of a clause. The writer too easily succumbs to making the verb agree with the complement instead of with the subject. The resulting blunder in subject-verb agreement is most likely to occur when the subject of a clause is singular and the complement is plural.
Despite the luxe setting, he didn’t show any jewelry; the only ornamentation, aside from flashes of embroidery on the mostly dark clothes, were jeweled buttons. (New York Times)
In the second independent clause of the sentence, the subject is the singular noun ornamentation, and the complement is the plural noun buttons. The verb must therefore be the singular was.
     The rule is simple: don’t fall for a complement. Keep your head—and don’t let the subject out of your sight. The singularity or plurality of the subject determines whether the verb should be singular or plural. The complement has no influence at all.
     In each of the following sentences, the verb in a clause is incorrect. The subjects of the troubled clauses are boldfaced, the misconjugated verbs are underlined, and the complements are italicized. Each underlined verb must be singularized.
One thing missing are big TV screens. (New York Times)
The biggest surprise are golden tubes called dynamite, akin to spring rolls but skinny and tight as cigarillos, with a nearly sheer, crepe-like wrapper. (New York Times)
The main feature of the plan, to take effect in March, are flight caps at Kennedy International Airport—just more than 80 flights an hour at peak times, versus a load that reached 105 flights last summer. (New York Times)  
Another option for free texting are instant messaging apps like iMessage, Skype IM, Kik, Google Talk, Facebook Messenger and GroupMe. (New York Times)  [The sentence needs a hyphen between instant and messaging; see Chapter 86.] 
But the evidence he finds most compelling are the questions that his former students get in touch to ask. (Providence Journal [Rhode Island]) 
The only useful part of most book blogs, in fact, are the links to long-form essays and articles by professional writers, usually from print journals. (New York Sun)
The biggest part of that [trend] are e-books, which didn’t exist 15 years ago and now make up 20% of all unit sales and are rising rapidly. (Forbes)
Reviewers’ comments, when available, are provided to authors. The exception are commentaries, all of which are by invitation only and reviewed only by the invited editor. (diabetesjournals.org)
Joakim draws a salary of about $3,500 a month, and the only outward indication Erland gives of wealth are the brown suede gloves he wears while driving his Kia, but they have been demonized for excluding Gabrielsson. (Rolling Stone)
“The No. 1 best seller in North America are smooth cupped nude bras,” she said, adding of her core customer: “We are much more your girlfriend who lives next door. She’s confident, and great, but isn’t overtly sexual.” (New York Times)
The best part of a singularly unadventurous menu are the small pizzas. (Village Voice)
Holmes said perhaps the best item on the menu are his Maryland crab cakes, a recipe he perfected with a fellow chef when he worked at The Rochester Club right out of culinary school. (thestylus.net
The difference between the kits are the various straps, suction cups and other ways to affix the camera to various objects that will then presumably travel at high speeds. (New York Times)
The biggest party fear, of course, are the no-shows. (New York Times)
Michael J. Fox, the president of Buckingham’s construction division, notes that the primary market for CityWay’s apartments, hotel rooms and retail spaces are visitors to the city’s sports arenas, and employees of Lilly and three other big corporate offices that are all within a 10-minute walk of the new neighborhood. (New York Times)  [The comma following arenas should be deleted.]
“The intellectuals’ chief cause of anguish,” he wrote in “The House of Intellect” (1959), “are one another’s works.” (New York Times)
But the biggest blow to the overall economy are the many hidden, indirect costs. (New York Times)
A popular accompaniment for cocktails are the corn and lentil beignets, a savory vegetarian-friendly fritter enticing for the donut in the name. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) [The sentence-ending appositive should be reconstituted as savory, vegetarian-friendly fritters, without the baffling phrasing enticing for the donut in the name.]
The daddy of all the meats are the burned ends (“like better brisket,” Mr. Zervoulakos explained to the garbage guys, “more flavor”). (New York Times)
So to hell with fact-checking and copyediting (typos and misspellings proliferate); the only thing to watch out for are the lawyers. (Los Angeles Review of Books)
But the real attraction here are Ms. [Faith] Ringgold’s implacable works from the ’60s and their assured synthesis of style, ideas and feelings. (New York Times)
The secret, some say, are the bits of steak and filet mixed with the meat. (Moon Pittsburgh [Moon Handbooks], by Dan Eldridge)
His most distinctive contribution were the hundreds of small drawings he produced weekly for more than forty-five years for the “Talk of the Town” section. (The Art of The New Yorker, 1925-1995 [Knopf], by Lee Lorenz)
One thing she didn’t involve herself in were the theater’s financial affairs. (Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark [Viking], by Brian Kellow)
Mercedes found the twenty-six-year-old Ona “extremely pretty, but the thing that struck me most were her eyes. They were very sad, and there was something about them that touched me deeply.” (The Girls: Sappho Goes to Hollywood [St. Martin’s], by Diana McClellan)
Back then, the payoff for orthodontist visits was a trip to Taco Bell, where the only thing we could eat were bean burritos and tacos. (New York Times Magazine)
All of which he got in spades, to his almost giddy delight: “the high point of his week” were his talks with [Mary] McCarthy, he wrote friends, though she made him “feel like a babe mentally.” (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey)
The only downside for Sal, really, were those long trips her son insisted on taking to California each year, during which she’d pepper him with scolding letters. . . . (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey)
But another factor in ticket prices were the holdovers like “Matilda” and “Motown”: While they offered discounts of 25 percent or more last season, during their first months of performances, they bloomed into bona fide hits this season and have seen more patrons buying seats at regular ticket prices of up to $145 (and premium prices of up to $250). (New York Times)
An added attraction were the SFJazz High School All-Stars, a group of white, black and Asian-American students. (New York Times)
The only dish on a spring tasting [menu] (same night, same length, same price) that I could pay the same compliment to were the stout asparagus stalks under morels in hollandaise, and I recall people rhapsodizing about them in 1997. (New York Times)
As for negative reactions, the only one that comes to mind, she said, were the concerns of her youngest son, worried that “all the kids in my middle school are going to be saying, ‘Your mom’s on acid,’” Ms. Waldman said. (New York Times)
The main attraction of cruise ships are the cruises, not the food. (Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, and Other Pricing Puzzles [Copernicus], by Richard B. McKenzie) 
The first sign of disparity in Tuesday’s night combo were the Rod Stewart/Santana bootleg shirts outside Consol Energy Center. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Haragopal Parsa, a professor at the University of Denver who studies food and restaurant trends, said in an email that most foreign matter appearing in packaged salads are “broken stem pieces, stalks, plastic wire pieces or small wood chips, not animal parts.”  (New York Times)  
The most encouragement I got for my swim, which was apparently across the English Channel, were two smiley faces. (Time)  [The complement is separated from its subject by two adjectival dependent clauses (see Chapter 9); the relative pronoun that is implied at the start of I got for my swim.]
A sentence with a singular subject, a correctly singular verb, and a plural complement may sound clumsy to some readers. Take, for instance, the corrected version of the following sentence.
The lowest form of life in the Vanity Fair universe are freelancers who’ve sent in unsolicited articles. (How to Lose Friends and Alienate People [Da Capo], by Toby Young)
The lowest form of life in the Vanity Fair universe is freelancers who’ve sent in unsolicited articles.

 If you think that such a sentence, grammatically correct as it is, will bother some readers, you are free to revise the sentence in several ways.

  • Pluralize the subject: The lowest forms of life in the Vanity Fair universe are freelancers who’ve sent in unsolicited articles.
  • Singularize the complement: The lowest form of life in the Vanity Fair universe is the freelancer who has sent in an unsolicited article.
  • Refashion the sentence so that the complement changes places with the subject: Freelancers who’ve sent in unsolicited articles are the lowest form of life in the Vanity Fair universe. 

Sometimes, instead of singularizing the erroneously plural verb in the sentence, you might consider it better to substitute a different singular verb.

A starter of “polenta croutons” ($15) are fat, crusty cornmeal tots with creamy centers, topped with seared mushrooms and Parmesan: a perfect union. (New York Times)
A starter of “polenta croutons” ($15) consists of fat, crusty cornmeal tots. . . .
 

^^   4 

Disagreeable Appositives
 
Appositives, if not treated with care, can wreak all manner of grammatical and punctuational havoc on a sentence, and a variety of such disturbances will be discussed throughout this book. Right now, though, it will suffice if we understand an appositive as nothing more than a noun, or a phrase functioning as a noun, that typically follows (but occasionally precedes) another noun and offers the reader a little bouquet of information about that other noun. In the sentence She moved to Cobble Hill, her favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn, the appositive is her favorite neighborhood in Brooklyn.
     The subject of a clause—and not the appositive following it—determines whether the verb should be singular or plural. But a plural appositive following a singular subject sometimes leads a writer to pluralize the verb. In each of the following excerpts, the subject is boldfaced, the appositive phrase is underlined, and the erroneous verb is italicized.
The changing nature of technology—cloud-based applications in particularenable new start-ups to succeed more quickly, with smaller teams and much smaller footprints. (Wall Street Journal)
The changing nature of technology—cloud-based applications in particular—enables new start-ups to succeed more quickly. . . .
[William] Burroughs’s work, especially his experimental cut-up novels, are an important influence on many of the musicians involved, including the club’s owner, the saxophonist and composer John Zorn. (New Yorker)
Burroughs’s work, especially his experimental cut-up novels, is an important influence on many of the musicians involved. . . . OR: Burroughs’s works, especially his experimental cut-up novels, are an important influence on many of the musicians involved. . . .
Public colleges have seen net prices rise sharply, particularly since the last recession began, as they have raised prices to offset plummeting state aid, though this year’s sticker price increases are the smallest in decades. The newest, smallest segment of the market, for-profit colleges, have also had significant increases in recent years. (New York Times) [Insert a hyphen between sticker and price in the first sentence; see Chapter 86.]
The newest, smallest segment of the market, for-profit colleges, has also had significant increases in recent years.    OR: For-profit colleges, the newest and smallest segment of the market, have also had significant increases in recent years. [In the second revision, the coordinate adjectives newest and smallest have been yoked together with the conjunction and so that the appositive is now free of slicing punctuation and immediately impresses itself upon the reader as a single unit.]
The remaining stock, heavy boxes, were then piled twenty feet above the stockroom floor—where none of us could easily reach them quickly. (Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail [Portfolio], by Caitlin Kelly)
The remaining stock, heavy boxes, was then piled twenty feet above the stockroom floor. . . . OR: The remaining stock, consisting of heavy boxes, was then piled twenty feet above the stockroom floor. . . . OR: Heavy boxes, the remaining stock, were then piled twenty feet above the stockroom floor. . . .
Among the main courses, the seafood of the day, scallops ($23.99) are underwhelming.   (Pitttsburgh Post-Gazette) [The sentence also suffers from asymmetrical punctuation; see Chapter 80.]
Among the main courses, the seafood of the day, scallops ($23.99), is underwhelming.   OR:  Among the main courses, scallops ($23.99), the seafood of the day, are underwhelming.
Almost every movie playing at Sundance—more than 100 features in totalare up for sale. (New York Times)
Almost every movie playing at Sundance—more than one hundred features in total—is up for sale. OR: Almost all of the movies playing at Sundance—more than one hundred features in total—are up for sale.
The Joshua Light Showthose swirling psychedelic backdrops that exploded fans’ minds at New York’s Fillmore East in the Sixtiesare staging a comeback. (Rolling Stone)
The Joshua Light Show—those swirling psychedelic backdrops that exploded fans’ minds at New York’s Fillmore East in the sixties—is staging a comeback. OR: The Joshua Light Show—featuring those swirling psychedelic backdrops that exploded fans’ minds at New York’s Fillmore East in the sixties—is staging a comeback.
Sometimes, though, substituting a singular verb for a plural verb will not do the trick; instead, rephrasing the sentence is a better solution.
But policing the two or three million players who are active on Xbox Live at any given time is hard. Just as on the broader Internet, there are people who delight in piquing anger or frustration in others, or “trolling.” For trolls, offensive languagesexist, racist, homophobic commentsare interchangeable weapons that vary with the target. (New York Times)
For a troll, sexist, racist, or homophobic comments are interchangeable weapons that vary with the target. OR: Depending on the target, trolls will use sexist, racist, or homophobic comments as weapons.
 

  ^^   5 

Putting One and One Together
 
The subject of a clause often consists of two or more nouns (or noun phrases or, occasionally, even nominative dependent clauses) joined by the coordinating conjunction and. Think of and as a plus sign. Subjects taking the form A and B, therefore, almost always require a plural verb—in much the same way that 1+1=2, not 1. Let’s call such subjects additive-compound subjects. In additive-compound subjects, A and B typically name two appreciably different things, characteristics, qualities, or such, and thus a singular verb would strike attentive readers as dead wrong. In the following excerpts, the nouns constituting the additive-compound subjects in troublesome clauses are underlined, and the erroneous verbs, in italics, must be reconjugated.
The number and size of New York’s drag balls in the 1920s and 1930s indicates the cohesion and scale of the gay world in those years. (Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940 [Basic Books], by George Chauncey)
The number and size of New York’s drag balls in the 1920s and 1930s indicate the cohesion and scale of the gay world in those years.
You may be able to fool some readers one [sic] or twice by waving around your wooden sword like the last crusader, but the bad faith and shambolic rhetoric has a hollowing effect on your writing; it’s the lousiest actors who shout the loudest. (Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror [Miramax Books], by James Wolcott)
. . . the bad faith and shambolic rhetoric have a hollowing effect on your writing. . . .
That’s not to say that one experience is better than the other, just that they’re different. The clarity and, let’s be honest, greater quality of the older medium (no one’s making anything for the Web that belongs in the same sentence with the best television shows) is balanced by the variety and energy of YouTube. (New York Times)
The clarity and . . . greater quality . . . are balanced. . . .
Similarly, the italicized verbs in the following nine sentences must be pluralized.
His wealth and anti-charisma attracts a trophy girlfriend-adviser-tabloid-siren named Threnody, whose “famous boobs” are “more like pottery than flesh.”  (Critical Mass: Four Decades of Essays, Reviews, Hand Grenades, and Hurrahs [Doubleday], by James Wolcott)
[Chelsea] Knight assembled a crew of Tea Partiers, Ayn Rand obsessives, and the like into an improvised dance troupe, in which Sarah Palin ventriloquism and twitchy choreography intermingles with the participants’ stunningly selfish assertions. (New Yorker)
Limited demand from Cambodia’s relatively small wealthy class and a heavy reliance on foreign investment has some observers questioning the viability of the projects. (New York Times)
Buckyballs’ initial conception and subsequent marketing, Mr. Zucker says, shows they were never intended for children. (Wall Street Journal)
And violence and threat of violence is common in street-level heroin markets because the good is so addictive, giving the dealers strong incentive to protect their markets from intruders. (Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, and Other Pricing Puzzles [Copernicus], by Richard B. McKenzie)
There may be no easy or universal answers to these questions, but new thinking and new technology has made it possible for some, like the airline and hotel industries, to use what is known as dynamic pricing to vary prices according to demand and fill seats and rooms more efficiently. (New York Times
[about the song “Beginning to See the Light”] The buoyant lyric and chugging rhythm is underpinned by one of Yule’s most naggingly infectious bass lines. (The Rough Guide to the Velvet Underground [Rough Guides], by Peter Hogan)
Sometimes it seems the dining room and even the bar is a bit buttoned up to accommodate such a messy plate, as decadent as it may be. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
The newsroom’s uninspiring décor and its vaguely Hobbesian feel contrasts mightily with, say, the minimalist sophistication and noblesse-oblige ethos that pervade the Condé Nast building, located a block from the Times’s headquarters. (Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media [Random House], by Seth Mnookin) [Note that the writer correctly treats as plural the second additive-compound pair in the sentence (sophistication and ethos), serving as the antecedent of the pronoun that, which functions as the subject of the adjectival dependent clause that pervade the Condé Nast building.] 
The same principle applies to an additive-compound subject consisting of at least three elements (A, B, and C or A and B and C). The next example is a sentence consisting of two independent clauses, each with a three-element additive-compound subject. The writer gets things right in the second independent clause (in which the elements of the compound subject are banquettes, tablecloths, and menu) but not in the first.
A green-and-purple neon sign, a neon-caked bar offering a bajillion tequilas, and a gaudy triptych of, one supposes, the goddess of toloache, beckons spendthrift tourists, but the leather banquettes, white tablecloths, and an impressive, inventive menu seem to speak to well-heeled Upper East Siders. (New Yorker)
Substitute beckon for beckons.
In each of the following sentences with three- or four-element additive-compound subjects, a plural verb must replace the singular verb.
At Chipotle, the food is fresher and tastes much better than traditional fast food. The sourcing, production and cooking is generally of a higher level; and the overall experience is more pleasant. (New York Times)
The emotional weight, psychological depth, and intellectual complexity of the work of this time is what comes through here. (New York Times)
And Hood by Air’s story is a reminder that acclaim, good press and even a genuine creative vision does not necessarily translate to untroubled success. (New York Times)
With age, dogs sleep more but enter paradoxical—REM—sleep less than in youth. Scientists have theories but no final explanation for why dogs dream—and they dream vividly, if their eye fluttering, claw curling, tail twitching, and yelping in sleep is any indication. (Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know [Scribner], by Alexandra Horowitz)
In the next sentence with a three-element additive compound, the nouns rigor, poise, and appeal together constitute the antecedent of the pronoun that in the adjectival dependent clause that makes her show a plausible counterprogramming move against CNN’s aging Larry King. In other words, that, which is the subject of the dependent clause, is functioning in a plural sense.
The network looked sideways, hiring Deborah Norville, formerly of the Today show and Inside Edition; often trivialized as a beauty pageant fluff bunny, she has an underlying rigor and poise and mainstream appeal that makes her show a plausible counterprogramming move against CNN’s aging Larry King. (Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror [Miramax Books], by James Wolcott) [A hyphen should unite beauty and pageant; see Chapter 86.]
Substitute make for makes.
That an additive-compound subject requires a plural verb would seem to be one of the simplest rules of them all. But the number of exceptions to the rule can be daunting. Deciding whether a singular verb might in fact be called for isn’t always easy. Some sentences with additive-compound subjects turn out to be head-scratchers. Following are six guidelines to help you choose between plural and singular verbs. A proviso, though: if your choice of verb bothers you even a little, you can expect that it will bother at least some readers a lot.
     First, if A and B are virtually equivalent in meaning, or if B renames A, a singular verb is unchallengeable.
The company’s unexpected comeback and its rebound in profits is good news for shareholders.

When A and B overlap but are not exact equivalents, however, the plural verb is the wiser choice.

Now, the very nature and purpose of Yosemite [National Park] is being fundamentally transformed into an exclusionary agenda that can best be described as “Look, but don’t touch.” (Wall Street Journal)
A reader might feel uneasy about the singular verb, because the nature of a thing and the purpose of that thing are not necessarily one and the same.
Substitute are for is.
The reputation and quality of tequilas and mezcals has risen recently. (New York Times)  
Substitute have for has.
Unlike similar collaborations between high street brands and high-end names (H&M and Lanvin; Target and Missoni), where the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t aspect of the line adds to its appeal, when it comes to true athletic wear, longevity and reliability is of greater value than rarity. (New York Times) [See Chapter 86 for a discussion of why the “now you see it, now you don’t”aspect is more reader-friendly than the now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t aspect.]
Substitute are for is.
Second, if A and B blend into each other to such a degree that they form a single entity in your thinking (as in familiar expressions such as living and learning and forgiving and forgetting), choose a singular verb. 
Trial and error play an inevitable role. (New York Times)
Substitute plays for play.
Other expressions of this sort include the be-all and end-all.
In her company, the be-all and end-all is pleasing the customer.
Third, if A and B are nouns expressing opposites and, taken together, form a whole, or if A and B express the dual nature of a single thing, a singular verb is appropriate.
The best and the worst of the movie is in the special-effects sequences.
The long and short of it is that the quality of the product has been going downhill for years.
The publisher’s blessing and its curse is that its books appeal to the broadest possible readership.
Fourth, an additive-compound subject expressing two closely related phases or stages of a single process requires a singular verb.
Some believe that the waxing and waning of the moon has a subtle effect on human behavior.
Why do we still need reminders that texting and driving is dangerous?
This push and pull between competing desires is exhausting her.
The watching and waiting goes on and on.
An additive-compound subject that expresses two separate processes, however, requires a plural verb.
But preventing hacking and identifying fake accounts continues to be more art than science. (New York Times)
Substitute continue for continues.
Sometimes, sourcing a great ingredient and serving it correctly is all that a chef need do. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Substitute are for is.
Fifth, if A and B are nouns that, taken together, form the name of a dish or a menu item (such as franks and beans, pork and sauerkraut, octopus and chorizo, bangers and mash, and spaghetti and sea urchin), choose a singular verb.
     Sixth, if the additive-compound subject is preceded by the adjective each or every, choose a singular verb.
Though each physician and patient are different, some routine steps will be necessary to help ensure a positive outcome. (ehow.com)
Substitute is for are.
Improvement is what every coach and player are looking for. (golfdigest.com)
Substitute is for are.
[headline]: Skills every parent and child need to learn before staying home alone or babysitting (examiner.com)
Substitute needs for need.
Finally, four recent trends in the singularizing of verbs with additive-compound subjects merit a close look.
    First, if the A and B elements are each preceded by an article (a, an, or the) or by a possessive form (such as her or Anna’s), a plural verb is all but inevitable—unless B merely renames A. Many writers, unfortunately, often opt for the singular verb.
The atmosphere of genial chaos and the sense of an event being caught on the fly gives the movie a superficially Altman-esque vibe, but the story is really as simple and earnest as they come, handcuffs notwithstanding. (New York Times)
Substitute give for gives.
Rona [Barrett] was tough, with a drive and a creative output that makes Madge Ciccone look like Fran Lebowitz. (Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women  [Simon & Schuster], by Simon Doonan)
Substitute make for makes.
Second, if A and B share a single article (a, an, or the), as in the A and B, or if they share a single possessive noun or pronoun, as in her A and B, a singular verb is not out of the question: the lone article or possessive word often has the effect of uniting A and B into a single entity. It would seem a waste of breath to challenge the singular verb in the following two excerpts.     
“The Five-Year Engagement” dutifully hits the marks of its genre, but it is also about the unpredictability of life and the everyday challenges of love. The sensitivity and honesty with which it addresses those matters is a pleasant surprise. (New York Times)
The hostility and snobbery of both Hughes and Kramer toward the collectors of Salle’s work is worthy of note. (New Yorker
Sometimes, though, the use of a singular verb with such a subject will trouble some readers.
The construction and renovation of 747 of the 4,000 public restrooms was handed to the care of Mr. Pang of the Tourism Development Authority. (The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters [Picador], by Rose George)
Construction and renovation, after all, are two entirely different processes.
The construction and renovation of 747 of the four thousand public restrooms were handed to the care of Mr. Pang. . . . OR: The construction and the renovation of 747 of the four thousand public restrooms were handed to the care of Mr. Pang. . . . OR: The task of constructing and renovating 747 of the four thousand public restrooms was handed to the care of Mr. Pang. . . .
Today, references to proofreaders are often in the form of nostalgic laments, usually found in the column of a newspaper’s ombudsman or reader’s advocate who is duty bound to explain why the level of accuracy and quality of the language in the paper isn’t what it used to be. (Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech [Union Square], by Craig Silverman)
. . . the level of accuracy and the quality of the language in the paper aren’t what they used to be. [Note that the pronoun in the sentence-ending nominative dependent clause needed to be pluralized as well.]
Ultimately, it is the sharpness and creativity of this writing that sticks. (New Republic)
Substitute stick for sticks.
Their hand-clapping and harmonizing was as important as the playing of their actual instruments; it was as if Ms. Mvula was using them for their body parts since she had only so many of her own to use. (New York Times)
Substitute were for was.
It was MD 20/20, known as Mad Dog, the toxic beverage whose high alcohol content—13 percent—and cheapness has made it popular with homeless men and hard-partying college boys everywhere. (Rolling Stone)
Substitute have for has.
But the characters’ thinking and groping and sometimes cutting each other dead in real time offers a different kind of amazement. (npr.org)
Substitute offer for offers. 
To be sure, we’ve always had sports heroes—Sonny Jurgensen, John McEnroe, Jim McMahon, Arnold Palmer—whose sly irony and authority-defining insouciance lends them the adolescent glamour of Peck’s Bad Boy, a posture that, while sometimes winning, can be mislabeled as charm. (The Atlantic)
Substitute lend for lends.
Third,  if A and B not only share a single article or possessive noun or pronoun at the outset but also share a modifier, a writer may be tempted to choose a singular verb but should think carefully before doing so. Do A and B inarguably present themselves to the mind as constituting a single entity?  If so, the writer should go ahead and use the singular verb. In most cases, though, the plural verb is the safer choice.
[Charlotte] Gainsbourg’s disarming honesty and vulnerability are unusual in France, where an obsession with discipline and appearance rules. (Wall Street Journal)
It is remarkable that so much attention has been given to the radioactive release from Fukushima, considering that the direct death and destruction from the tsunami was enormously greater. (Wall Street Journal)

The noun death applies to the animate and destruction to the inanimate.

Substitute were for was.
The international acclaim and patronage that Titian came to enjoy was achieved and sustained by his extraordinary ability, but at the beginning of the cinquecento, as now, even extraordinary ability could benefit from the attention of the right people. (Wall Street Journal)
Substitute were for was.
Fourth, when A and B are nouns sharing a single prepositional phrase, a writer should resist any inclination to singularize the verb unless A and B are equivalent in meaning or are regarded as forming a single unit.
From China, the food begins a long and steep descent in quality, and the pleasure and insight of Ms. Lin-Liu’s writing follow a gentler but no less noticeable decline. (Wall Street Journal)
The cost and the scarcity of day care has helped create what the sociologist Joya Misra calls “the motherhood penalty.”  (New York Times)
The prepositional phrase of day care applies to both cost and scarcity. Yet cost and scarcity are hardly synonymous.
Substitute have for has.
In the Missoni case, he said, the magnitude and immediacy of the demand was unprecedented. (New York Times)
Magnitude and immediacy are not synonymous at all.
Substitute were for was.
In sum, there are sentences in which the choice of the singular verb or the plural verb is up to the writer’s discretion—but, again, if the verb you choose doesn’t feel right in your bones, you can bet that it will irritate, even offend, at least some of your readers.
Be careful with any sentence whose subject takes the form of a singular noun that names an inclusive category of something (such as poetry or rap) and that is preceded by two or more adjectives or adjectival phrases that each designate a subcategory (such as metered and free-verse or East Coast and West Coast). Such a subject is functioning elliptically (see Chapter 46); that is, the reader is expected to understand the subject to be metered poetry and free-verse poetry in the first instance and East Coast rap and West Coast rap in the second. Any subject of that sort must be treated as an additive-compound subject requiring a plural verb. In the following sentence, the nouns solo, family, and peer function as adjectives, each designating a particular type of play.
Solo, family and peer play, she believes, nurtures “curiosity, grit, and zest and a whole host of social and emotional learning.” (Wall Street Journal)
A reader can mentally expand the elliptical subject into solo play, family play, and peer play.
Substitute nurture for nurtures. 
Company names in additive-compound form (such as Marlin & Associates, Procter & Gamble, Bath & Body Works, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux), as well as company names in plural form (such as Roth Capital Partners,  Basic Books, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries), require singular verbs.
That summer, as Jackson staggered to the end of another draft of his novel (which Farrar & Rinehart were now announcing for November), he vowed not to “touch so much as a comma of it” once the damn thing was done again. (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey)
Substitute was for were.
Pronouns referring to company names must be singular as well.
By favoring certain books by virtue of who has published them, Barnes & Noble are—by definition—recommending books to their customers that they are less likely to buy. (huffingtonpost.com)
By favoring certain books by virtue of who has published them, Barnes & Noble is—by definition—recommending books to its customers that they are less likely to buy.
[subhead] Johnson & Johnson are no longer selling their metal-on-metal hip-replacements after August 31st of this coming year, in order to simplify and streamline its offerings (healthcareglobal.com)
Johnson & Johnson is no longer selling its metal-on-metal hip replacements after August 31 of this coming year, in order to simplify and streamline its offerings
A confounding, even maddening, subcategory of additive-compound subjects comprises those in which the B element has been set off by a pair of commas, a pair of dashes, or a pair of parentheses. What makes such subjects bothersome is that by fencing the B element off with punctuation, the writer has in effect shut it out of the main business of the sentence. Thus there’s every temptation to regard those B elements the same way we regard elements preceded by complex prepositions, such as along with or as well as (discussed in Chapter 2), which exert no influence on the verb. Yet many brilliant writers seem to think that by setting off the B element, they are not pushing it aside but instead throwing extra emphasis on it.
Here, for instance, is the thrillingly brainy book reviewer Dwight Garner partitioning off and the necrophilia but choosing the plural verbs creep and are:
The necromancy, and the necrophilia, that creep into “Last Stories” are unsettling, but here Mr. [William T.] Vollmann seems alert, committed to his material. (New York Times)
Yet here’s a sentence in which the partitioned-off B element has no bearing on the form the verb takes:
The yawning gap between the haves and the have-nots—and the political questions that gap has raised about the plight of the middle class—has given rise to anti-Wall Street sentiment and animated the presidential campaign. (New York Times)
So what is a writer to do?  This book conservatively recommends ignoring the punctuationally fenced-off B element when conjugating the verb in such sentences—if only to prevent a reader from questioning the writer’s choice of verb. (And of course the writer can always replace the conjunction and with a complex preposition, such as in addition to or as well as [see Chapter 2].)
    Sentences in which the B element is cordoned off with commas are especially troublesome if both A and B are singular and a questionable plural equational verb is followed by a plural complement.
The apotheosis of their Elysium entitlement, and a crucial emblem of the divide between the haves and the have-nots, are home-wellness machines that, by rescrambling atoms, eradicate disease almost instantaneously. (New York Times)
Reforming the sentence so that the complement switches places with the subject moots the matter of whether the original subject was in fact singular or plural. Now that it’s serving as the complement, it has no influence on the singularity or plurality of the verb (see Chapter 3).
Home-wellness machines that, by rescrambling atoms, eradicate disease almost instantaneously are the apotheosis of the rich person’s Elysium entitlement and a crucial emblem of the divide between the haves and the have-nots.
 

 ^^   6

Neither he nor she agree on whether this sentence is correct.
 
We often get into mischief when we write sentences whose subjects take the form A or B, A nor B, either A or B, or neither A nor B. (Such subjects sometimes have more than two elements and take the form A, B, or C and so on.)  As adults composing sentences, we easily forget that the simple word or and the fancier-sounding nor are not synonymous with and.
They haven’t a clue who John Bolton or Elliott Abrams are, never mind what they do and why they’re evil. (Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror [Miramax Books], by James Wolcott)
Even the most “wonderfully told tale” of unraveling family life and marital infidelity, she argues, doesn’t deliver the jolt we get when Emma Bovary or Anna Karenina risk it all for love. (New Republic)
He sensitively hints at the kid’s isolation, but neither O’Hara’s accurate and evocative narration nor his narrator get very caught up in his life. (John O’Hara: A Study of the Short Fiction [Twayne], by Steven Goldleaf)
He said Mr. Kramer or Mr. Carter were never issued shares and thus have no say in the business, despite having given the company money. (New York Times)
If you don’t yet see what is catastrophically wrong with each of those excerpts, consider this: When you’re browsing in the toy store with your six-year-old niece, and, with only ten dollars to spare, you tell her that she can have either the action figure or the bazooka-shaped squirt gun, you can be sure she knows very well that she’ll be leaving the store with one and only one new plaything. The six-year-old has no trouble understanding that or doesn’t mean and.
     So we adults need to be mindful that when we write A or B, we mean one or the other, not both. The same is true of subjects in the variant forms A nor B, either A or B, and neither A nor B. In each of those formations, A and B are alternatives. Let’s call such formations alternative-compound subjects. Think of or and nor not as plus signs but as slash marks used in their common, slapdash way as a shorthand form of or, as in Anybody have any questions/concerns?
     The rule that guides us to the correct verb when the subject is an alternative compound could not be simpler: The verb is always conjugated to agree with the B element, the part of the subject closer to the verb. If the B element is singular, the verb needs to be singular; if the B element is plural, the verb needs to be plural. That’s all there is to it.
     In the erroneous specimens presented a few paragraphs above, the verbs following alternative-compound subjects must be singularized.   (The first excerpt, of course, requires some pronominal adjustments as well; see Chapter 29.)
      Below are more excerpts afflicted with errors in subject-verb agreement resulting from a misunderstanding of alternative-compound subjects. In each case, the faulty verb has been italicized.
In the same vein, the buttermilk sauce under red sea bream sashimi or the unsweetened lemon mousse with raw sea trout and roe are almost acidic enough on their own to clean copper pots. (New York Times) [Note, too, that their must be singularized to its.]
None of his colleagues or friends who were asked about him said they knew of these activities. How long he may have pursued them or whether he earned money from them are unclear. (New York Times)
If you really need telling who Socrates or Marx were, you’re probably not going to have sat through the “Philosophers’ Football Match” in the first place. (Wall Street Journal)
Before I get to my own list, a note or two is in order. (New York Times)
He doesn’t think the hearing or the legislation have any value. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
After going on stage at the Music Box at 8:50, for eight minutes, he dashed to the night’s opening where Dorothy or Don Stewart or Gertrude were covering the first act for him and explained what he had missed. (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? [Penguin], by Marion Meade) [If you were at first thrown off by the positioning of the phrase for eight minutes, be sure to read Chapter 24.]
Unsurprisingly, there’s significant overlap among the cast of characters that populate these three memoirs. When a doorbell rang chez Heller, Styron or Wells, Peter Matthiessen, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Nora Ephron or George Plimpton were liable to be on the landing. (New York Times)
Instead of throwing in the towel because you can’t do a full-hour workout, remember that half an hour or even a few 10-minute breaks throughout the day is better than nothing. (Parade)
That way, if one or more of the conditions is appealed and overturned in court, the overall agreement remains in force. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
He wrote a letter saying he was enclosing a photocopy of the proof with the change in Bishop’s handwriting, but neither the copy nor the original appear to survive. (Elizabeth Bishop and The New Yorker: The Complete Correspondence [Farrar, Straus and Giroux], edited by Joelle Briele)
Perhaps you could not have watched it if you were squeamish; neither Alex nor I were. (The Pilgrim Hawk: A Love Story [New York Review Books Classics], by Glenway Wescott)
Neither she nor Eddie were domestic. (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? [Penguin], by Marion Meade)
Neither his wife nor Dr. Caselli perceive these difficulties. (New York Times)
Speaking by phone, Matthew Salinger said that neither he nor his father were involved with the film. (New York Times)
[the boldfacing has been retained from the source] The performances look and sound as if  [Tristan] Shone were being tortured for some unforgivable crime—neither this show, alongside The Body, Uniform, and Moor Mother, nor his latest record, “Pressure Mine,” are for the faint of heart. (New Yorker)
Alex and Abbie, the young woman who supposedly first posted the photo of Alex, also disputed Breakr’s account and denied they were part of any publicity stunt. This caused Breakr to “update” its LinkedIn post to say that neither Alex nor Abbie were part of any scheme, that it occurred organically and the company “jumped on it” to draw attention to its services. (New York Times) [Confused by the antecedent of it? You’re not alone. See Chapter 35.]
“Neither the president nor the vice president have any conflicts of interest, and their reports have been reviewed and certified by the independent Office of Government Ethics,” Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, said in a statement. (New York Times)
Faced with the book’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to the supernatural—an ever-shifting feud of werewolves and warlocks, vampires and assorted demonic entities—neither she [the screenwriter] nor her director, Harald Zwart, have the luxury of dwelling too long on any one character or plot point. (New York Times)
She added that neither she nor her father—who together own about 57 percent of Syms—have purchased Syms shares since the Dec. 21 announcement, and neither has the company. (New York Post)
Neither the deconstructed lasagna nor the tofu stir-fry are likely to make your baba recall the family meals of her youth. (Pittsburgh City Paper
The Emmy voters appeared to signal a changing of the guard in late-night television, as neither “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” on NBC or CBS’s “Late Show With David Letterman” were nominated in the outstanding variety, music or comedy category, nor for best writing. (New York Times)  [Note that nor must replace or.]
If the back and forth continues, as it most likely will, and neither Clinton nor Obama are able to reach the magic number of delegates, then we’re going to circle back for a really nasty fight over Michigan and Florida. (Real Clear Politics)
Neither his body nor his parachute were recovered, although some of his loot was found scattered in the wilderness between Seattle and Reno nearly a decade later. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
His wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, sits on the boards of Teach for America and the New Schools Venture Fund, among others, and presumably donates money to those organizations, though neither she nor her husband are listed among its big donors. (New York Times)
Sometimes it just makes more sense to replace or with and if the sentence will sound better that way—especially if the verb is an equational verb followed by a plural noun as the complement. The plural verb will then be correct, as well as pleasing to the eye and the ear. 
The Nazi Captain Blicero in Gravity’s Rainbow, or the ruthless financier Scarsdale Vibe in Against the Day, are not truly frightening figures, because they are not true figures. (How Fiction Works [Farrar, Straus and Giroux], by James Wood)
The Nazi Captain Blicero in Gravity’s Rainbow and the ruthless financier Scarsdale Vibe in Against the Day are not truly frightening figures, because they are not true figures.
The stockrooms or the bathroom were our only options for privacy away from those security cameras and customers’ or “secret shoppers’” [sic] possible disapproval. (Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail [Portfolio], by Caitlin Kelly)
The stockrooms and the restroom were our only options for privacy from those security cameras and relief from the possible disapproval of customers or “secret shoppers.”
The substitution of and for or will resolve the problems in the following ten excerpts as well. (Note that in the first five, the equational verb is followed by a plural complement.)
Evolving in sophistication to its current state of enlightened cynicism, TV pictures the very rich not as individual flukes lolling in the lap of luxury but as a tribal fiefdom in a gated community of the mind where outsiders are admitted only if they pass inspection and survive the elimination rounds, where a horsey laugh or a misused salad fork are the disqualifying marks of a peasant. (Vanity Fair)
A new pair of swim goggles, a pedometer to help you hit 10,000 steps, a jump rope for a great at-home workout or a new exercise DVD are all relatively inexpensive gifts that will give you some get-up-and-go. (Parade
As far as his daughters were concerned, the only real oddness was that he did spend a lot of time in his room, while the life of the house went on around him . . . quietly: “Papa’s working” or “Papa’s sleeping” were constant refrains, along with (after a night when loud music had rumbled behind his door) “Papa doesn’t feel well.”  (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey)
To identify the autobiographical kernels within “Seymour—an Introduction” or to distinguish the traits that Buddy Glass held in common with the author are fascinating but parenthetical readings of the novella. (J. D. Salinger: A Life [Random House], by Kenneth Slawenski) [This sentence also suffers from faulty predication; see Chapter 45.] 
Pulled chicken or the carne asada are runners-up, served with pico de gallo and slaw. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Crying, tantrums or clinging are among the symptoms DC:0-3 lists for social anxiety. (Time)
Other nights, the mashed potatoes, spinach or risotto were too salty to eat.   (Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise [Penguin], by Ruth Reichl)
Somtum Der’s drunken noodles or pad Thai with crab are more than credible, too, if you cannot imagine a Thai meal without those standbys. (New York Times
In Mr. Charney’s 2012 contract, chronic alcoholism or drug abuse are listed among reasons directors can fire him for cause. (Wall Street Journal)
A twist of vanilla and chocolate, perhaps covered in sprinkles that taste of nothing and stick in your molars, or a plain vanilla cone dipped in a slick of chocolate are among summer’s greatest culinary pleasures. (New York Times
When one of the elements in an alternative-compound subject is singular and the other is plural, the sentence will sound better if the plural element is positioned before the verb: Either alcohol or drugs are to blame is preferable to Either drugs or alcohol is to blame, though the second version of the sentence is technically correct.
No sewers or water were provided. (The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters [Picador], by Rose George)
No water or sewers were provided.

Sometimes, it is best to edit the alternative-compound structure out of the sentence.

Neither her employers nor anyone else was aware of her work until a cache of more than 100,000 images was discovered and attributed to her shortly after she died. (Wall Street Journal)
No one, including her employers, had been aware of her work until a cache of more than one hundred thousand images was discovered. . . . [See also Chapter 51.]
Some editors, with good reason, frown upon alternative-compound subjects with three elements, but they are nonetheless fairly common. In a sentence with such a subject, the verb must agree with the third element of the compound.
Neither his managerial style nor his entrepreneurial success nor his passion for secrecy seem to necessarily transfer over to his newest possession. (New York Times)
Replace seem with seems.
Sleet, snow, frost or freezing rain take care of everything else. (Wall Street Journal)  
Replace take with takes.
To “throw like a boy” or “act like a man” or any of the thousand phrases that use “man” as the model of subjectivity betrays the patriarchal situation inside which our society shapes bodies, shapes what constitute “freedoms” and what types of bodies are allowed to realize those freedoms. (New York Times) [The sentence also suffers from faulty parallelism; see Chapter 41.]
Replace betrays with betray.
While Mr. Cohen can’t say for sure whether the free parking or the events or some combination are the reason for the increase, he said he has heard from customers who appreciate what the city is doing. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Replace are with is.
Loneliness is certainly not something that Facebook or Twitter or any of the lesser forms of social media is doing to us. (The Atlantic)
Replace is with are. The third element in the subject, any, requires a plural verb, because it belongs to a tiny subset of indefinite pronouns (others include all, some, more, and most) whose singularity or plurality is determined by the singularity or plurality of the object of the preposition in the prepositional phrase immediately following the pronoun. In this case, the object of the preposition is the plural noun forms.
When a three-element alternative-compound subject includes at least one plural element, it’s a good idea to position the plural element before the verb. The sentence Often, alcoholism, drugs or mental illness is involved, and in some cases the person has had repeated contacts with the police, from The New York Times, is technically correct but would sound better if rephrased as Often, alcoholism, mental illness, or drugs are involved. . . .
In an inverted sentence (see Chapter 7), the verb of an alternative-compound subject must still agree with the part of the subject closer to the verb, but it is often better to recast such a sentence to avoid awkwardness.
Several years ago an exhibition in Vienna celebrated them [arcades and “belated versions of the famous 19th-century proto-malls of London, Milan and Paris that once epitomized modernity”], and lately a few chic clubs and cafes have apparently taken over parts, though I saw almost only forlorn stores hawking discount sneakers and fast food; in lieu of the original movie palaces there were one or two local theater troupes advertising community dramas on gaudy fliers tacked to corkboard easels. (New York Times
. . . in lieu of the original movie palaces, one or two local theater troupes were advertising community dramas on gaudy fliers tacked to corkboard easels.
When the second part of an alternative-compound subject is a pronoun, be on heightened alert to ignore the first part of the subject as you conjugate the verb.   If the correct verb sounds awkward, consider rewriting the sentence.
Anecdotal material has its place—neither Ed nor I is in a position to deny that. (Love Trouble: New and Collected Work [Mariner], by Veronica Geng)
. . . neither Ed nor I am in a position to deny that. OR: . . . Ed is not in a position to deny that, and neither am I.   OR: . . . Ed is not in a position to deny that, nor am I. OR: . . . Ed is not in a position to deny that, and I’m not, either. 
In some sentences with an alternative-compound subject, the verb is grammatically correct, but a pronoun referring back to the B element is plural when it should be singular or is singular when it should be plural. The pronoun must agree in number with the B element of the subject. The italicized erroneous pronoun they in the following sentence might best be replaced not with a correct, singular pronoun but with a noun phrase such as each writer.
Neither the fabled chair where Sir Walter Scott’s buttocks once rested nor Charlotte Brontë’s tattered stocking can compete with the words they once sent out into the world. (Wall Street Journal
When you correct the verb in a sentence with an alternative-compound subject, you’ll sometimes need to rephrase part of the predicate of the sentence.
Neither the man nor his plump wife, who watches from the sidelines in an ill-fitting bathing costume, look like legitimate candidates for distinction of any kind. (The World Through a Monocle: The New Yorker at Midcentury [Harvard University Press], by Mary F. Corey)
Neither the man nor his plump wife, who watches from the sidelines in an ill-fitting bathing costume, looks like a legitimate candidate for distinction of any kind.
It’s best to avoid the slash mark as a substitute for the spelled-out word or—especially since some writers have started using it to mean and. The further you read into the sentence below, the less certain you’ll be about the meaning of any one particular slash mark. Somewhere along the way, though, the slash mark begins to mean and.  
Your husband/wife/partner/kids/dog/cat need you to step up to the grindstone every single day. (Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail [Portfolio], by Caitlin Kelly)
Your husband or wife or partner, your kids, and your dog or cat will need you to step up to the grindstone every single day. OR: Everybody in your domestic life—your husband or wife or partner, your kids, your pets—needs you to step up to the grindstone every day.
The words either and neither do not function only as parts of either A or B or neither A not B constructions. Either and neither can each serve as the lone subject of a sentence. In that capacity, either and neither are classified as indefinite pronouns that always require a singular verb. (See Chapter 11.) 
Finally, one other major form of trouble with handling either A or B and neither A nor B constructions is discussed in Chapter 42.
 

 ^^   7 

Arse-Backwards Sentences
 
In most clauses we write, we position the subject before the verb. That way, we achieve the standard, familiar, and optimally reader-friendly ordering of words. But writers seeking variety in their style occasionally compose a clause in which the verb precedes the subject. A clause with that back-to-front arrangement of its two main parts is called an inverted clause.
     Inverted clauses are unusually susceptible to the perils of subject-verb disagreement, because writers often lose track of which noun or pronoun is the subject.
      It’s easy to forget that any nouns preceding a verb are often the objects of prepositions and do not constitute the subject, as in each of the following sentences (in which the introductory prepositional phrases are underlined, the subject is boldfaced, and the incorrect verb is italicized).
Among the Pop masterpieces on view are Robert Rauschenberg’s “Canyon” (1959), which involves a taxidermy bald eagle and was front-page news when the Sonnabend family donated it to the museum in 2012. (New Yorker) [A comma is needed before in 2012; see Chapter 70.] 
Among the show’s revelations were a version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying,” that ripped it off the quasi-operatic pedestal on which Orbison and K. D. Lang had placed it and turned it into the hurt, stumbling monologue of someone coming to grips with her pain and struggling to maintain some composure. (New York Times) [The comma following the song title must go; see Chapter 72.]
But with innovation has also come headaches. (New York Times)
On rust-colored walls hang garage-sale art: mirrored snowflake designs and murals of flowers, cheese, tomatoes and pasta. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Inverted clauses don’t always begin with one or more prepositional phrases.
Type “download movies for free” into Google, and up pops links to sites like the Pirate Bay, directing users to free copies of just about any entertainment—the latest “Twilight” installment, this week’s episode of “Whitney,” the complete recordings of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. (New York Times)

The verb in an inverted clause with an additive-compound subject (see Chapter 5) can easily be misconjugated. In each of the following excerpts, the elements constituting the additive-compound subject are boldfaced, and the italicized singular verb must be pluralized.

Among the attractions is “Concerto for Buildings,” a presentation on Greene Street by Mantra Percussion and the students of the Face the Music ensemble, in which four composers (including Paula Matthusen) will employ twenty-four percussionists to play buildings as instruments; “Exquisite Corpses,” a series of continuous concerts offered at many of the city’s cemeteries (including Grant’s Tomb and Trinity Wall Street); and “Sousapalooza,” a happening at Bryant Park’s Upper Terrace in which TILT Brass, Iktus Percussion, and some two hundred wind players from around the tri-state area (conducted by Jeff W. Ball) will participate in a concert that includes spirited readings of pieces by the March King himself, John Philip Sousa. (New Yorker
Of more pressing concern was the family’s dire financial straits and her need to make more money than a barbershop job could provide. (Garbo: A Biography [Knopf], by Barry Paris) 
Across the aisle sits Bono’s wife, Ali Hewson— striking, dark-haired, with the brown eyes that he’s never stopped singing about—who is reading newspapers and eating dinner, and their two young sons, who are both curled up for naps after sprinting about backstage for most of the night while their dad did the same onstage. (Rolling Stone) [The sentence is also weakened by a multitasking dash; see Chapter 84.]
The lucent, icy-clear ikura (salmon roe) was some of the best I’ve ever tasted. So was the glittery, silver-skinned saba (mackerel), from Hokkaido, and the fatty o-toro-tuna-belly hand roll, which, Nakazawa merrily informed us, was wrapped in a crinkly blanket of the highest-grade toasted nori, harvested not from China, where most nori comes from, but from Tokyo Bay. (New York)
As the frontier of human knowledge pushes forward, so, too, does the cost and the complexity of further exploration. (New Yorker)  [Substituting a plural verb for the singular one, though, won’t solve an even more serious problem: the sentence simply doesn’t make any sense, because it’s telling us that the cost and the complexity of further exploration also push forward. How, for instance, can a cost be said to push forward?]
As the frontier of human knowledge pushes forward, the cost and the complexity of further exploration will increase. OR: As the frontier of human knowledge pushes forward, further exploration will be increasingly costly and complex.
The chief for regulatory affairs is gone. So is a senior lawyer and two midlevel engineers. (New York Times)
Nearby is a cooling plant that hisses white steam, and a coking facility that oozes yellow exhaust. (New York Times) [The comma, of course, must vanish.]
Out go smiley faces and pot; in comes big hair and cocaine—and presto, you have a sitcom. (USA Today)
Adding to the burden of caring for them is social disgust and castigation, which can be devastating and profoundly isolating. (New York Times)
Inside was a kitchenette, a bathroom and two bedrooms. (New York Times)
Gone is the grim upholstery and fluorescent lighting of the cramped, even scary, interiors of the Tupolev series of jets that are still operated by domestic Russian carriers. (New York Times)
But beneath the novel’s playful surface is repression, violence, and authority. (Los Angeles Review of Books)
Inside, past heavy black metal doors, is a spacious bar and stage that conjure a headbangers’ ball: walls clad in black steel, an inverted crucifix in the window, an Iron Maiden album cover adorning the black mahogany bar. (New York Times)
Gone is the thunderhead of smoke you expect at a Korean barbecue joint, the constant scraping of the hot plate, the burned debris. (New York Times)
The light fixtures were made in Brooklyn, a server told me; so is the seltzer the waiters are always pushing and the half-sour pickles that come with the popovers. (New York Times)
Adding foreboding piquancy, as well as psychological clues, is a looming, oversize statue of the Virgin Mary and the weirdly twinned figure of Linda’s rampaging, hectoring mother, Dorothy Boreman (Sharon Stone, simmering with dark hair and scowl). (New York Times)
Key to the early success of the supermarket was the shopping cart (first introduced in 1937), the automobile, free parking lots, and mechanical refrigerators in the home and store. (The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More [Hyperion], by Chris Anderson)
Visible behind the stage is a small rock garden and the steep pine-clad slopes of the Rockies. (New York Times
Included in Issa’s history is a gun conviction, allegations of car theft and suspicions that he burned down factories that housed one of his businesses. (New York Post)
The restaurant’s name, La Vie en Szechuan, is less a nod to Edith Piaf than a worldly sounding pitch to the moneyed Chinese who have been coming to New York. Along with this comes less oil in the cooking and more decorative presentations. (New York Times) [Insert a hyphen between worldly—an adjective, not an adverb—and sounding; see Chapter 86.]
Joining Mr. Severino on the line was Kevin Hermann from The Porch at Schenley in Oakland and cooks from the team at Cure. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Writers occasionally end up with the wrong form of the verb in an inverted clause when they set out to write a sentence with an additive-compound subject; but then, realizing that the first part of the subject is going to require some lengthy description, they bring the sentence to a close before the second part of the compound subject gets even as much as a mention. In the following excerpt, the second and third parts of an additive-compound subject intended for a single sentence find themselves in sentences of their own. The italicized verb must be singularized.
Among the shows expected to make their debut in 2014 are “Viva los Vargas” a reality series based on Fernando Vargas, a retired Mexican-American boxer, and his family life in Las Vegas. “Reinas de Realty” features two Latinas who are trying to build a real estate business in Southern California and “live the American dream one casa at a time.” “Horoscopos” will follow the daily lives of Vicky and Marisol Terrazas, the two lead singers in the Mexican band Horoscopos de Durango. (New York Times)  [Note that in the first sentence a comma must be inserted before the closing quotation mark (see Chapter 66). In the second sentence, a hyphen must be inserted between real and estate (see Chapter 86).]
The information about all three programs could, of course, be consolidated in one long sentence.
Among the shows expected to make their début in 2014 are Viva los Vargas (a reality series based on Fernando Vargas, a retired Mexican-American boxer, and his family life in Las Vegas); Reinas de Realty (featuring two Latinas who are trying to build a real-estate business in Southern California and “live the American dream one casa at a time”); and Horoscopos (which will follow the daily lives of Vicky and Marisol Terrazas, the two lead singers in the Mexican band Horoscopos de Durango).
Sometimes the noun or pronoun positioned directly before the verb is the object of a different verb in the sentence. The three parts of the additive-compound subject of the following sentence are boldfaced, and the erroneous verb is italicized. (The noun immediately preceding the erroneous verb is the direct object of the transitive verb raise.)
Among the companies that have recently moved in and helped raise the building’s stature is the construction company Skanska, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the social network LinkedIn. (New York Times

Finally, the verb in an inverted clause with an alternative-compound subject (see Chapter 6) can easily be misconjugated.

To follow what’s happening in the real world, you need real-time search. Google doesn’t have it (yet). Neither do Bing nor Yahoo. (news.cnet.com)   
Neither does Bing nor Yahoo.
It’s not only the subject-verb agreement that can go to pieces in a sentence whose subject has not been positioned at the start.
The actual writing of the book, and most of the words in the following pages, I did offline. (The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More [Hyperion], by Chris Anderson)
Even after mentally reconstructing the sentence in noninverted form (by moving the direct objects from the front of the sentence and setting them down after the transitive verb did) and then confronting the result (I did . . . most of the words in the following pages offline), readers might still find it a little difficult to figure out exactly what the writer wants them to take away from his sentence other than, perhaps, I wrote most of the book offline or I wrote the book offline.
 

 ^^   8

There, there.
 
Writers who start a clause with the word there sometimes choose a singular verb when a plural verb is required. You never want to mistake the word there for a subject. The subject of a clause beginning with there will always be found later in the phrasing. In such clauses, whose ordering of the subject and the verb is inverted, there is nothing more than a structural support. (Grammarians call it an expletive.)
      In the first excerpt below, the subject of the clause in which there appears is underlined. The incorrect verb, is, is contracted in there’s. The quickest fix is to substitute there are for there’s. The second excerpt begins with an inverted clause; the subject of that clause is underlined, and the italicized verb must be replaced by the plural verb are.
Anyone good at politics does not pick a fight with the Catholic Church during a presidential year. Really, you just don’t. Because there’s about 75 million Catholics in America, and the half of them who go to church will get mad. The other half won’t like it either. (Wall Street Journal)
There is only so many positive adjectives one can use before it gets repetitive, but it would also be bluntly obscene to not exalt the flawless level of storytelling achieved by Richard Linklater and his cast. (filmophilia.com)
And then there was us, a middle-aged lesbian couple in expensive yet practical footwear who traveled from Atlanta to see if we could find the campy gay undercurrent that runs through Dollywood, arguably the most culturally conservative amusement park in the country. (New York Times
And then there were we. . . .  [See Chapter 30] OR: And then there we were. . . .
Things are more flexible, though, when the subject of a clause beginning with there is an additive-compound subject (see Chapter 5). A plural verb is certainly correct (the nouns that together form the subject of each of the sentences below have been underlined).
There are a young woman, a middle-aged man, and a woman in her late sixties waiting outside.
It’s permissible, though, to use a singular verb in such a sentence as well, especially if each of the elements of the additive-compound subject is a singular noun.
There is a bracelet, a necklace, and a single earring.
A singular verb is acceptable even if one or more plural elements follow one or more singular elements in an additive-compound subject.  
There was an upright piano, three chairs, and a cot.
If you decide to use a plural verb in such a sentence, however, the sentence will read more smoothly if the first noun in the additive-compound subject is a plural noun.
There were two small chairs, a grand piano, a bed, a desk, and a cabinet
If all of the nouns in the additive-compound subject are plural, the verb must be plural. In the following excerpt, There are must replace There’s.
There’s the solitary households we’re supposed to adapt to, and the shifting workplaces we’re being asked to accept. (Lonely: A Memoir [Harper], by Emily White)  [The sentence can lose its comma.]
Finally, remember that the only sort of inverted clause in which an additive-compound subject can take a singular verb is one beginning with there.
In her room are a futon, a wooden chair, and a small table, on which there is an old rotary telephone, a windup clock, and a framed photograph of her parents.
 

^^   9     

Adjectival dependent clauses are a grammatical construction that lead many writers to commit subject-verb-agreement errors, like the one in this sentence.
 
An adjectival dependent clause is a dependent clause in the same line of work as a single-word adjective: it makes its living by describing a noun. The sentences She offered a brilliant suggestion and She offered a suggestion that was brilliant each say the same thing, but in the second sentence, that was brilliant is a three-word adjectival dependent clause (the subject is that, the verb is was, and the complement is brilliant) accomplishing what the lone word brilliant accomplishes in the first sentence. We can’t do without adjectival dependent clauses, because the descriptive or elaborative detail we want to pin to a noun is often not reducible to a single word. Adjectival dependent clauses will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 72, which explains how to punctuate them. The only adjectival dependent clauses we need to concern ourselves with here are those beginning with that and which—words that grammarians call relative pronouns.
      The singularity or plurality of the verb following the relative pronoun in such a clause is determined by the singularity or plurality of the antecedent of that pronoun. The antecedent is simply the noun to which the pronoun refers. That noun will be positioned somewhere before the dependent clause, but it won’t always be the noun immediately preceding the pronoun.
Through persistent lobbying, banlieue entrepreneurs have been founding “angel” investment funds, persuading big French companies like AXA Insurance and BNP Paribas to contribute seed money that fuelstart-ups ranging from trash removal to taxi fleets. (New York Times)
The subject of the adjectival dependent clause that fuel start-ups ranging from trash removal to taxi fleets is the relative pronoun that, whose antecedent is money, a singular noun. The verb in the adjectival dependent clause thus needs to be singularized: fuels. [It would also be helpful to expand the compound noun trash removal into the noun phrase trash-removal services.]
     In the following seven sentences, the adjectival dependent clauses are underlined, the pronominal subjects of those clauses are boldfaced, the antecedents of those pronouns are bracketed, and the erroneous verbs are italicized. Each italicized singular verb must be pluralized, and each italicized plural verb must be singularized.
The cost is not outlandish compared with the [price] of a waterproof case, which typically run $40 to $130. (New York Times)
The female athlete has the additional [“burden”] (de Beauvoir’s way of describing how the female experiences her body) of the contradiction (she must be both subject and object, masculine and feminine, active and passive) that make the obstacles preventing the realization of their subjectivity and freedom seem insurmountable. (New York Times)
The only place the movie falters is in some curious dialogue [exchanges] between Jesse and Celine that is meant as cute banter but raises the question of why they don’t already know certain things about each other. (ign.com)
The results suggested that other forces—including sharply rising [incomes] at the top of the ladder, which allows well-off families to invest far more in their children—were holding back talented people, the authors said. (New York Times
Much of the excitement in video games has shifted to the [Web and mobile devices], which is cheap, easy and fast. (New York Times
Coupons are an ingenious marketing [invention] that enable sellers to segment their markets into different buying groups with divergent price sensitivities and then to price discriminate, charging the price-insensitive group more than the price-sensitive group. (Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, and Other Pricing Puzzles [Copernicus], by Richard B. McKenzie)
[about Donald Trump’s presidential tweets] Instead, Trump gets immense control over every single [sentence] he issues, which are then read by millions of Americans. (townhall.com)  [Note that he issues is another adjectival dependent clause, with an implied that at its start.]
Things get more complicated, though, when one adjectival dependent clause is tucked inside another.
Turkle writes persuasively about the ways that the “continual partial attention” that our devices induce (and demand) denature human connections, even tenuous ones. (New Yorker)
The writer might have thought that the subject of the verb denature was ways (the object of a preposition), or maybe she thought the subject was devices, the only other plural noun that precedes the verb. Although the sentence is not a long one, its structure is complex. If you take the sentence apart, you first remove the independent clause (Turkle writes persuasively about the ways) and then find yourself with two adjectival dependent clauses, one of which (that our devices induce [and demand]) is embedded within another (that the “continual partial attention” . . . denature human connections, even tenuous ones). It is in the dependent clause hosting the embedded dependent clause that the subject-verb agreement breaks down: the subject is the relative pronoun that, whose antecedent is the singular noun attention. The hosting adjectival dependent clause therefore calls for a singular verb: denatures.
      Sometimes the antecedent of the relative pronoun is an additive-compound subject (see Chapter 5), such as panic disorder and agoraphobia in the following sentence.
She informs me of her panic disorder and agoraphobia, which has contributed to a bad case of writer’s block, as she can no longer “separate arousal from anxiety.” (New York)
Substitute have for has.
 

^^   10 

The Lonesome One
 
About one of every five sentences starting off with phrasing such as About one of every five sentences or Only one in five sentences ends up with the wrong form of the verb—a plural instead of a singular.
About one in five customers pay cash.  (New York Times
Today, an estimated one in three Americans are obese. (New York Times)
Only about 1 in 20 black women are interracially married. (Wall Street Journal)
One of every two people in line with me at a Coney Island concession stand last weekend were carrying at least 25 extra pounds. (New York Times)
Nationally, about one in six 18- to 24-year-olds smoke cigars, federal research shows, compared with only 2 percent of people over 65. (New York Times)  [18- to 24-year-olds should be hyphenated as 18-to-24-year-olds; see Chapter 86.]
It sometimes seems that the longer the sentence, the more likely the error will show its face.
They planned a more general documentary about homelessness, struck by the statistic that 1 in 45 children in the United States live on the street, in shelters or in motels. (New York Times)
In one study, for instance, one in three individuals with a high school degree were struggling with emotional isolation, compared to just one in ten with a master’s degree or higher. (Lonely: A Memoir [Harper], by Emily White)  [Insert a hyphen between high and school; see Chapter 86.]
Although Internet users rarely click on an ad to be taken away from a page—only one in a thousand do so, according to Google—they could engage with all those tidbits in the Mrs. Meyers ad without leaving the Web page they were visiting. (New York Times)
About one in four of the nearly 7,400 elected representatives across the country do not possess a four-year college degree, according to a report released Sunday evening by The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington. (New York Times)
Even as schools aim to better prepare students for a global work force, fewer than one in three US students are proficient in geography, with most eighth-graders unable to explain what causes earthquakes or accurately describe the American Southwest, according to a report released Tuesday morning. (New York Times)
Backers of the programs say the new focus will eliminate waste in an education system where only about one in three students graduate from community college in three years. (Wall Street Journal)
None of us would write a sentence like One are absent. In each of the sentences above, though, the writer was distracted by the plural object in the prepositional phrase following one. Remember that the objects of prepositions—with rare exceptions (one of which will be discussed in the second side note below)—have no influence on the singularity or plurality of a verb (see Chapter 1).
The erroneous sentences above need singular verbs. The following sentence requires not only a singularized verb but also a singularized noun.
Although he did not disclose how many ads Facebook was showing its users, the company said this year that roughly 1 in 20 posts sent to users’ news feeds were ads. (New York Times)
Although he did not disclose how many ads Facebook was showing its users, the company said this year that roughly 1 in 20 posts sent to users’ news feeds was an ad. (New York Times)
Sometimes it’s a pronoun, not a verb, that bollixes things up in a clause beginning with phrasing like One in every ten women.
In contrast, only one in ten women said they had experienced love at first sight. (dailymail.co.uk)
The past-tense verb said would of course be correct with either a singular or a plural subject, but the plural pronoun they clashes with the singular antecedent one. The solution: replace they with she.
     Sometimes both the verb and the pronoun in such a sentence are incorrect.
Just one in 10 high school graduates without college degrees said they were “extremely well prepared by their high school to succeed in their job after graduation.” (New York Times)  [The first appearance of high school in the sentence needs to be hyphenated; see Chapter 86.]
The transitive verb said is correct in the independent clause, but in the nominative dependent clause that serves as the direct object of said, the plural pronoun they is incorrect, because it has one as its antecedent. Replacing they with she or with he or she, as well as replacing their with her or with his or her, will also require that were be replaced with was.
As far as I know, no such trailblazing legislation is pending in our own nation’s capital, even though, according to an industry trade magazine, more than one out of two female shoppers in this country say they have a problem finding clothes that fit, with inconsistent sizing a prime reason. (Shoptimism: Why the American Consumer Will Keep on Buying No Matter What [Free Press], by Lee Eisenberg)
. . . more than one out of two female shoppers in this country says she has a problem finding clothes that fit. . . .
 But even the revision fails to satisfy. Human beings, after all, exist as whole, indivisible entities, so the phrasing more than one out of two is better rephrased as more than fifty percent of, or more than half of, which would require the restoration of the plural verb and pronoun.
. . . more than fifty percent of female shoppers in this country say they have a problem finding clothes that fit, with inconsistent sizing a prime reason.
And that further revision leads to a final point.
A sentence like One of every five writers is frustrated right now can obviously be rephrased as Twenty percent of all writers are frustrated right now—a sentence demanding a plural verb. When percent serves as the subject of a sentence, the singularity or plurality of the verb will be determined by the singularity or plurality of the object of the preposition in the prepositional phrase either explicitly or implicitly following the subject (see Chapter 15): the sentence Twenty percent of the jobs have been completed can be reduced to Twenty percent have been completed. Similarly, the sentence Twenty percent of the work is finished can be boiled down to Twenty percent is finished.
In the nineteen-thirties, one in four Americans got their news from William Randolph Hearst, who lived in a castle and owned twenty-eight newspapers in nineteen cities. (New Yorker)
In the nineteen-thirties, one in four Americans got his or her news from William Randolph Hearst. . . . OR: In the nineteen-thirties, twenty-five percent of Americans got their news from William Randolph Hearst. . . . [A writer might also choose to substitute a quarter, a fourth, or one-fourth for twenty-five percent.] 
 

^^   11 

Either of these sentences are wrong. Neither of these sentences are correct.
 
Either and neither are classified as indefinite pronouns—pronouns that, unlike personal pronouns (such as she or they), do not refer to one or more nouns appearing previously in a sentence. There is nothing indefinite, though, about the status of either and neither as pronouns that are unyieldingly singular in meaning. Only a singular verb, then, will be correct when either or neither is the subject of a clause. Writers often trip up, however, when either or neither is followed by a prepositional phrase whose object is plural.
     In each of the following excerpts, the italicized verb is plural when it needs to be singular. The prepositional phrase trailing after either or neither is underlined.
But the authorities emphasized that they had no proof that either of the men were involved in any crime. (New York Times)
Not that either of them are likely to be cowed by the prospect. (New York Times)
When I retire, you can bet my wife and I will hold onto our University Hills house for as long as either of us are alive. (Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies, and Other Pricing Puzzles [Copernicus], by Richard B. McKenzie)  [The sentence would also benefit from the insertion of that after bet; see Chapter 54. And onto should be split into on to.]
Toxicology tests ruled out that either of the two were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. (newsy.com)
Bergman and Sanders are classic movie stars, but Voyage To Italy lies far from the tone either of the actors are known for. (contactmusic.com)
Neither of these story lines pass the straight-face test. . . . (New York Times
Jeff Passan of Yahoo.com argues that it isn’t because the testing is not stringent enough, the penalties are not harsh enough and the string of positives means neither of them are scaring players away from synthetic testosterone, which Jayson Stark of ESPN.com fears may be closing in on an epidemic. (New York Times)
Neither of them are any match for Vice President Sally Langston (Kate Burton), a born-again Christian who murdered her husband and wants to destroy the president who put her on the ticket. (New York Times
While neither of the contenders were available for comment yesterday, MaltaToday is informed that Andrew Mizzi is interested in the main role, while Cory Greenland will be his sidekick. (Malta Today)
Crawls—those streams of words marching across the bottom of the screen—can be useful for warning viewers about approaching tornadoes or late scheduling changes. (“The start of ‘60 Minutes’ will be delayed indefinitely because neither of these two incompetent N.F.L. offenses seem to be able to score in overtime.”)  (New York Times)
Neither of the boys have spoken out publicly about it, but band mate Liam took to Twitter last night following their Manchester concert as part of their current world tour to apologise to their fans. (metro.co.uk)
Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said that neither of the two high schools’ principals were told about the trip beforehand. (New York Post)  [In this case, were must be replaced with had been, not with was; see Chapter 51.]
Neither of the films have a release date yet. (Epoch Times)
But neither of the boys are prepared for what happens to Hassan that afternoon and Amir ends up being tormented by the guilt of abandoning his friend after the life-shattering event. (soglos.com)
Eventually, my daughters will talk on the phone with confidence . . . and as long as neither of them are talking to the police, I’ll be happy. (huffingtonpost.ca)
Neither of the films are diminished in the comparison, and both should be sought out. (cinescene.com)
Neither of them lack for accomplishments, or a sense of purpose. (New York Times)
In the case of Dorothy and Benchley, neither of whom were able to confide fully in their mates, they complemented each other psychologically, indeed were kindred souls. (Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? [Penguin], by Marion Meade)   [The antecedent of the personal pronoun whom is the additive compound Dorothy and Benchley.]
In January 2014, after investigators questioned Joseph and Vawser, neither of whom were prosecuted, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, charged D’Souza with two counts: violating federal campaign-finance laws and causing a false statement to be made to the Federal Election Commission. (Vanity Fair)  [The antecedent of whom is the additive compound Joseph and Vawser.]
The chief products of Los Angeles are novelizations, salad, game-show hosts, points, muscle tone, mini-series, and rewrites. They export all of these items with the twin exceptions of muscle tone and points, neither of which seem to travel well. (Social Studies [Random House], by Fran Lebowitz)  [The antecedent of which is the additive compound muscle tone and points.]
Mentally insert the word one after either or neither in any such sentence, and you’ll always end up with the correct form of the verb: Neither [one] of them is guilty.
     Occasionally, either or neither is not even followed by a prepositional phrase, yet the writer still mistakenly chooses a plural verb.
 In two studies of the Norwegian experiment thus far, neither were supportive of the role of women on boards. (New York Times)
Singularizing the verb is not always enough to ensure that a sentence with either or neither as the subject is grammatically sound. It might be necessary to singularize one or more nouns or pronouns in the sentence as well.
A Yonkers police spokesman said neither of them were carrying guns. (New York Times)
A Yonkers police spokesman said neither of them was carrying a gun.
And though neither of us are exactly Oprah fanatics, we were fans of her show—and of her—and were beginning to get in the spirit of the thing. (New York Times)
 And though neither of us is exactly an Oprah fanatic. . . .
Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates were both wrong about the Iraq invasion, but neither of them were architects of that folly and both are far better known in recent years for consensus-building caution (at times to a fault in Clinton’s case) than arrogance. (New York Times)
. . . but neither of them was an architect of that folly, and both are far better known in recent years for consensus-building caution. . . .
Neither of those things [chronic alcoholism or drug abuse] were cited as reasons for his firing. (Wall Street Journal)
Neither of those things was cited as a reason for his firing. OR: Neither was cited as a reason for his firing.
Neither of the victims were random bystanders. (dailymail.co.uk)
Neither of the victims was a random bystander.
Neither of the owners are chefs or have backgrounds in cooking. (Lawrence Journal-World [Kansas])
Neither of the owners is a chef or has a background in cooking.
Neither of the conference winners seem to be sluggards in the purchasing department. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Neither of the conference winners seems to be a sluggard in the purchasing department.
The goal of the game is that neither of the players are to laugh or giggle at the hilarious moments or they would get wet. (International Business Times)
. . . neither of the players is to laugh or giggle at the hilarious moments, or she will get wet.
Neither of the girls are out of their teens yet and they’re already richer than we’ll ever be, on a hit reality TV show, and have tried their hands at everything from fashion design to modeling. (bustle.com)  [The sentence also suffers from faulty parallelism; see Chapter 41.]
Neither of the girls is out of her teens yet, and both are already richer than we’ll ever be, appear on a hit reality-TV show, and have tried their hands at everything from fashion design to modeling.
 

^^   12 

To each her own singular verb.
 
When writing about each of several persons or things, you’re singling out one of them for lone consideration. The verb in an each of the Xs construction must therefore be singular. If you bear in mind that there’s an implied one after every each, you’ll never end up with a plural verb. Ignore any prepositional phrases that follow each; the plurality of one or more of the objects of the prepositions may lead you to choose a plural verb. Each of the italicized plural verbs in the following sentences needs to be singularized.
Each of the three are receiving $5,000. (Wall Street Journal)
Each of these works are priced at $3 million or under—the smallest are in the six figures—and produced in editions of three. (New York)
The seeds grow as if tended by fairies and in the process, each of the children are made better, too. (New York Times)
Each of [Taylor] Swift’s four previous records have been progressively less interested in keeping up with the Nashville sound, and given that Swift’s new hometown is New York, not Nashville—as made perfectly evident in 1989’s opening “Welcome To New York,”—she’s gone full big-city strut with the help of iconic pop producers like Max Martin. (The Onion’s A.V. Club)
Many of the Comedy Central roasts are borderline lame, but each of the comedians on the dais absolutely kill in this one, especially host Katt Williams, a pint-sized pimp who channels Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Richard Pryor in his stand-up. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Each of these sequences are constructed as natural discussion, bouncing from topic to topic, but ultimately taking the scene and the characters within it from Point A to Point B and illuminating some new facet of their relationships with one another. (ign.com)
Each of the other wines, the freisas, grignolinos and so on, show an aspect of nebbiolo as well. (New York Times)
They complain about Jesse’s ex-wife—who, understandably, now despises the two of them—and about their jobs and about the sacrifices each of them have had to make and about how much Jesse would love to be closer to the son he left behind in the United States. (deadspin.com)
For the past three seasons, Mr. Tudor has been growing hull-less oats on three acres, each of which yield 40 to 100 bushels. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Sentences in which a writer has erroneously chosen a plural verb for each may also call for a pronominal adjustment.
Each of the three house desserts have their charms, but my favorite is the grapefruit sorbet, which is mingled in a frosty glass with a spoonful of smooth Greek-yogurt ice cream and sprinkled, on its top, with a dusting of sugar flavored, ingeniously, with the slightest touch of Campari. (New York)
Each of the three house desserts has its charms. . . .  
The iPhone class has eight students. Each of them are responsible for producing a project, in any medium they choose, for a public exhibition titled “iPhone Therefore iArt.”   (New York Times)
Each of them is responsible for producing a project, in any medium she chooses. . . . OR:  They are each responsible for producing a project, in any medium they choose, for a public exhibition. . . .
Sometimes, as in the following sentence, in which the error in subject-verb agreement appears in the second half of a compound predicate, each can be replaced by a plural pronoun.
[about four short stories by Elizabeth Bishop] I notice that each appeared in due course in such places as Harper’s Bazaar and The New Yorker, and were reprinted in the “Best” collections of the year. (American Fictions [Modern Library], by Elizabeth Hardwick)
I notice that they appeared . . . and were reprinted in the annual “Best” collections.
Like each, an inherently singular indefinite pronoun, the indefinite pronouns everybody and everyone always require singular verbs as well. The italicized verb in the next excerpt must be replaced by was.
Nobody laughed at a second preview in San Francisco; indeed, as The Hollywood Reporter observed, everyone in the theater stayed put well past midnight and were “positively limp” by the end.   (Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson [Knopf], by Blake Bailey)
 

^^   13 

Number-Crunching 
 
When we begin a clause with a number of or the number of, we sometimes forget that the phrasings aren’t interchangeable. We can easily substitute adjectives like most, many, some, and few for a number of, a phrase used when persons or things are being considered separately and severally, not as a mass or a lump sum. But the number of is a construction of an entirely different sort: it means the entire quantity of. A number of requires a plural verb, but the number of requires a singular verb.
     Writers often fail to heed the distinction. The italicized verbs in the following examples must be singularized.
While monthly subscription rates have declined only slightly, the number of minutes offered in mobile plans have increased significantly. (New York Times)
The district has neighborhoods facing a burgeoning school-age population, in part because of a high-rise building boom, with pockets where the number of children are in decline. (New York Times)
That troubles Cook and others who work in the system because while the number of children are continuing to increase, the number of court workers, social workers and service providers generally are not. (cincinnati.com)
City Manager Lee Feldman said a preliminary study shows the number of accidents have essentially remained the same. (Sun-Sentinel ([Fort Lauderdale, Florida])
The number of accredited online programs have grown, and many have been granted the same federal student aid status as brick-and-mortar schools.   (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)  [Substitute federal-student-aid for federal student aid (see Chapter 86).]
The number of students have “doubled, almost tripled” from the start of the year for Josie Hemmelgarn, who teaches Zumba at Cross Fit Crave in Celina and Studio Rock Fit in Rockford. (Daily Standard [Celina, Ohio])
Even when one or more adjectives are inserted between the and number of, the verb still needs to be singular. The italicized verbs in the following sentences must be singularized.
The growing number of misrepresentations appear to reflect a calculation in both parties that shame is overrated, and that no independent arbiters command the stature or the platform to hold the campaigns to account in the increasingly polarized and balkanized media firmament. (New York Times)
[an inverted sentence (see Chapter 8)] Then there are the infinite number of top ten lists dynamically created for each customer based on his or her listening patterns and particular tastes, no matter how narrow they may be. (The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More [Hyperion], by Chris Anderson)  [A hyphen needs to be inserted between top and ten (see Chapter 86).]
The erroneous use of a singular verb following a number of at the start of a clause is much less common.
A number of studies shows that inquiry learning involves many different cognitive processes that need to occur simultaneously on different levels. (from the abstract of a master’s-degree thesis)
Substitute show for shows.
Even if one or more adjectives are inserted between a and number of, the plural verb is still the recommended choice. The italicized verbs in the following two sentences should be pluralized.
More recently, as competition for patients and treatments intensifies, an increasing number of the nation’s leading medical centers has been offering the costly—and controversial—therapy to patients with the more common colorectal or ovarian cancers. (New York Times)
The project to hire more black faculty at Duke and other colleges faces a serious obstacle: an extremely small number of PhD degrees is awarded to blacks each year, and the rate at which blacks go into postgraduate education is not rising, according to statistics published annually by the U.S. Department of Education. (Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus [Free Press], by Dinesh D’Souza)
Errors in which a singular verb is chosen for the phrasing a number of are more likely to arise in an inverted sentence starting with the expletive there (see Chapter 8). The italicized verbs in the following four sentences must be pluralized.
Of course there is a number of reasons why streamers decide to illegally stream live sports coverage, but by-and-large, most do it just because they can. (forbes.com) [The sentence needs to lose its hyphens; see Chapter 86.]
While there is a number of things that would need to happen for this all to go down, Smith’s report speaks to the volatile nature of the free agent market right now. (Star-Ledger [New Jersey]) [The sentence needs a hyphen between free and agent (see Chapter 86).]
There was an increasing number of assignments from Film Quarterly, Sight and Sound, and The Partisan Review, but while they kept her name alive in film-criticism circles, none of them paid more than a pittance. (Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark [Viking], by Brian Kellow) 
The phrasing any number of, when followed by an explicit or an implied plural object, requires a plural verb.
Early in his career, Springsteen realized there was any number of virtuoso guitar players. (Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision [Bloomsbury], by Louis P. Masur)
Substitute were for was.
 

^^   14 

More than one writer—don’t let it be you!—are likely to miss the error in this sentence. If you think your editor, not you, are going to be held responsible, think again. 
 
Sentences whose subjects take the forms more than one, more than one X, and more than one in any number of Xs always require a singular verb—even when the sentence is phrased in inverted form. The italicized verbs in the following excerpts must be singularized.  
Tickets are $25, or $22.50 each when more than one are being bought. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Finally, to figure out what percentage of the total problems will be solved when more than one are addressed, a line graph should be added to the top. (businessnewsdaily.com)
TapNext Lite merely launches the frontmost presentation when more than one are open in Keynote. (Macworld) [Bothered by the positioning of the adverb merely? See Chapter 22.]
The answers—and there are more than one—are at the heart of Krys Lee’s forceful debut novel. (New York Times
Around one in 10 students overall perform at the highest level in science. And more than one in five students are below baseline proficiency. (upi.com)  [The verb in the first sentence is also incorrect; see Chapter 10.]
Sometimes not only the verb calls for correction, but also a noun or a pronoun needs an adjustment, as well as any verb following the adjusted noun or pronoun.
More than one in four students are students of color, and 60 percent of students are white. (Oregonian)
More than one in four students is a student of color. . . .
Research by Fiat revealed more than one in five are in a relationship they are not completely happy with. (thesun.co.uk)
. . . more than one in five is in a relationship she is not completely happy with. OR: . . . more than one in five is in a relationship he or she is not completely happy with.
If a sentence with more than one as the subject sounds clumsy with the correct verb, you can always resort to rephrasing.
The IRS can, however, work with the Department of Justice Tax Division to take bad preparers to court one at a time (sometimes more than one are lumped together from the same practice) and obtain injunctions ordering them to stop preparing or to only prepare returns in a monitored fashion. (forbes.com)
. . . sometimes two or more are lumped together. . . .
Sentences (if there are more than one) are separated by a line break or a dot, dot, dot (aka an ellipsis).  (Sydney Morning Herald)
Sentences (if there are two or more) are separated by a line break. . . . 
As for a subject expressing a contrast (an A, not B, construction), the verb agrees with the A element. The commas setting off not B peripheralize that phrasing from the main matter of the sentence. The italicized verb in the first sentence below must be replaced by is. In the second sentence, are must be substituted for is.
Many of those violations involve buildings where the landlord, not the tenants, are legally responsible to install them. (failedmessiah.com)
[the italicizing, other than that of the verb, is retained from the source] Managing your career is a continuous process, and you, not your employer, is responsible for it. (Network World)
 

^^   15

Twelve percent of the grammatically minded public find nothing ungrammatical about this sentence. 
 
Those readers, though, would easily be challenged. So would the writer of the following sentence.
At the show’s peak, sixty per cent of the viewing public were watching the series, more than fifty million viewers nationwide, every Saturday night. (New Yorker)
But it’s hard to imagine that any reader would take issue with the singular verbs boldfaced in the three sentences that follow.
It was the kind of speech that Merkel (who had no comment) would never give, especially after a poll commissioned by the foreign ministry in May showed that sixty per cent of the public was skeptical of greater German involvement in the world. (New Yorker)
It seems clear that about sixty per cent of the public supports a woman’s right to an abortion in the first trimester. (New Yorker)
According to a poll carried out by YouGov last week, fifty-nine per cent of the public supports this policy and twenty-seven per cent opposes it. (New Yorker)
The rule is simple enough: when the subject of a clause is percent (or per cent, as The New Yorker prefers to spell it), the singularity or plurality of the verb is determined by the singularity or plurality of the object of the preposition in the prepositional phrase that follows percent. In the banana’d excerpt at the head of this chapter, the object of the preposition—public—is a noun conventionally treated as singular, so the verb needs to be singularized. Substitute a plural noun such as Americans for the viewing public, though, and the plural verb would be correct.
     In the grammatically correct sentence that follows, per cent functions in the plural sense in the first independent clause, and it functions in the singular sense in the second independent clause.
Ninety-eight per cent of households in South Korea have access to broadband (versus sixty-eight per cent in America), and seventy-three per cent of the population uses a smartphone (versus fifty-six per cent of Americans). (New Yorker)
The italicized verbs in the following excerpts must be singularized.
About 10 percent of the population are in a very high risk group with ratios greater than 5. (New York Times)
By contrast, 17% of the U.S. uninsured population as a whole live in rural areas, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health-care policy organization. (Wall Street Journal) [Substitute health-care-policy for health-care policy; see Chapter 86.]
Five percent to 15 percent of the population are susceptible to asthma, he said. (New York Times)
Ten percent of the population are homeless. (The Brethren, by John Grisham, excerpted on nytimes.com)
“Fast fashion is a totally different customer, fashion savvy, who knows and understand [sic] the unique opportunity—or someone trying to make a quick buck by selling it on eBay,” says Fink, adding that for a designer whose name is plastered over ads for Gap or Target, it can mean higher recognition in the United States, where only 10 percent of the population are hyper aware of designers. (New York Times)  [Substitute hyperaware for hyper aware.]
Only 5 percent of the population are genetically susceptible to it [leprosy]. (New York Times)
A writer sometimes chooses the correct verb for a clause with percent as its subject but then chooses the wrong form of a pronoun to refer back to that subject.
(For some perspective on these numbers: According to experts cited by the VA, some 8% of the overall U.S. population suffers from PTSD at some point in their lives, compared with up to 10% of Desert Storm veterans and about 30% of those from Vietnam.)  (Wall Street Journal)
Although the singular verb, suffers, is correct, it clashes with the plural pronoun their. (See the discussion of collective nouns in Chapter 18.)
. . . some eight percent of Americans suffer from PTSD at some point in their lives. . . .
 

^^   16

More errors like these means more slipshoddiness in newspapers and magazines. 
 
Too few workers leads to operational problems. (businessweek.com)
The subject of that slapdash sentence is the plural noun workers, yet the writer tosses in the singular verb leads. What gives?  Simple—the writer is cutting corners and outsourcing some of her work to the reader. The reader is expected to rummage around in her head for an appropriate word or phrase to position at the head of the sentence—not only to ensure that the subject and the verb will agree but also to smooth out the wording. A gerund, such as having or hiring, would do nicely. The noun workers will then function as the object of the gerund, not as the subject of the sentence. But why not spare the reader the trouble?  Don’t just imply the subject—spell it out.
Hiring too few workers leads to operational problems. OR: A shortage of workers leads to operational problems. OR: Short-staffing leads to operational problems.
The logic seemed airtight: Two (or more) computer monitors means more room on your virtual desktop, which means more room to do your work. (New York Times)
Having two (or more) computer monitors gives you more room on your virtual desktop—and more room to do your work.
City housing subsidies are limited. Mr. Ratner has been trying to find ways to pay for his promise, repeatedly going back to officials in recent years to ask for more money and concessions about the mix and layout of apartments. More concessions to him ultimately means less money for public housing somewhere else. (New York Times)
Granting him more concessions ultimately results in less money for public housing somewhere else.
Fewer employed men means more people on the dole and fewer taxpayers to contribute to the nation’s economic growth. (cnn.com)
When fewer men have jobs, more people will be on the dole, and fewer taxpayers can contribute to the nation’s economic growth. OR:  When there are fewer men in the labor force, the consequences are more people on the dole and fewer taxpayers contributing to the nation’s economic growth.
[from an article about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’s having acquired The Washington Post] No baggage—and deep pockets—means room to try new things. (New York Times)
Adding to a reader’s frustration here is the need to decide whether the dashed-off noun pockets is in fact intended to be half of an additive-compound subject (baggage and pockets) or whether baggage alone should be construed as the subject (see Chapter 5).
With deep pockets and no baggage, the publisher is free to try new things.
 

^^   17

You can be one of the few writers who understands what is wrong with this sentence.
 
Writers often stumble when composing sentences that include phrasing such as one of those people who or one of the things that.  
Alzheimer’s is one of those cataclysms that seems designed specifically to test the human spirit.   (How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter [Knopf], by Sherwin B. Nuland)
There are two ways to understand why a plural, not singular, verb is inevitable in such constructions. The first explanation requires no grammatical terminology at all. Look more closely at the example. A single thing (in this case, a disease) is being placed into a category of things (in this case, the category consists of cataclysms), and a statement is being made not only about Alzheimer’s but also about the other members of the category. The verb thus needs to be pluralized so that it embraces all of the members, not just Alzheimer’s alone. All of the cataclysms in that category “seem designed specifically to test the human spirit.”
      The grammatical explanation of why such a sentence calls for a plural verb requires us to recognize that the sentence comprises two clauses—an independent clause (Alzheimer’s is one of those cataclysms) and an adjectival dependent clause (that seems designed specifically to test the human spirit). The subject of the adjectival dependent clause is the relative pronoun that. A relative pronoun has an antecedent: a previous noun to which the pronoun refers. In the sentence under examination, that is substituting for the plural noun cataclysms and therefore cannot manage without a plural verb.  
Alzheimer’s is one of those cataclysms that seem designed specifically to test the human spirit.
In each of the following excerpts, the italicized verb must be pluralized.
One of the most persistent misapprehensions that exists between artists and viewers—and writers and readers—concerns the relative weight of content and form. (New Yorker)
A live-action version of a famed Japanese manga by Shirow Masamune, “Ghost in the Shell” is one of those future-shock stories that edges around the dystopian without going full-bore apocalyptic.   (New York Times)
Though he was raised and remains an atheist, he is one of those atheists who longs for the simplicity of belief. (Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction [The New Press], by Dale Peck)
Media companies need to maximize profits, and the Times may be one of the few institutions that believes that high-quality journalism and the impressive margins that come with more popular fare can be had simultaneously. (Hard News: The Scandals at The New York Times and Their Meaning for American Media [Random House], by Seth Mnookin)
“And, before any outraged poets explode, I’d like to point out that I’m one of the 73 people in the world who buys poetry.”  (Nick Hornby, quoted from his book Ten Years in the Tub: A Decade Soaking in Great Books, in New York Times
Connection itself is one of the themes that ties together O’Hara’s stories. (John O’Hara: A Study of the Short Fiction [Twayne], by Steven Goldleaf)
It’s McCartney’s best work in years and a reminder that while most of us think we’re well-schooled on what went on with the Beatles and with Yoko and with the Cavern Club, this guy is one of two left on the planet who actually knows for sure. (The Onion’s A.V. Club)
[about Adam Sandler] He’s one of the few actors who still collects $20 million paychecks. (Forbes)
Then you need tape, one of those household items that is almost never where you thought you’d put it. (New York Times)  [Note that them must replace it.]
It [Instacart] is one of several companies that is trying to revive a dream first floated, and then shelved, during the last dot-com boom—the dream of ordering your staples online and having them show up at your door a short while later. (New York Times)
We remember hearing it said of one extraordinarily successful member of our own profession that he was one of the few who was not motivated by fear of failure. (Wall Street Journal)  [The adverb not was italicized in the article.]
Diagnostics is one of those corners of the health markets that is more irrational the closer you look. (Wall Street Journal)
I left Brooklyn that night with a sense that I retain to this day, which is that I cannot ever be one of those people who moves into a neighborhood that many of the people who’ve lived there for years would leave if only they could. (New York)
The big white bus is leaving. If you’re one of those ignorant souls who thinks New York City is limited to Manhattan and its cold, imperious skyscrapers, you should hop aboard. (New York Times)
Your boss, Clara Tillinghast, somewhat resembles a fourth-grade tyrant, one of those ageless disciplinarians who believes that little boys are evil and little girls frivolous, that an idle mind is the devil’s playground and that learning is the pounding of facts, like so many nails, into the knotty oak of recalcitrant heads. (Bright Lights, Big City [Vintage], by Jay McInerney)
Cusk is one of many novelists who has, in recent years, expressed frustration with the artificiality of fiction. (New Republic)
It’s hard to articulate the HBA mission per se—they are as excited by the selfie that Oliver just received of a 16-year-old in head-to-toe HBA as they are by anything else—but they do imagine a world where self-expression and freedom to “lose your mind” and be whoever and whatever you want are a given. And that is one of the things that is generating such love for them in the fashion world. (New York)
When you walk in from Johnson Avenue, one of those Bushwick streets that runs along blank walls that hide disquieting postindustrial scars, you’re asked if you would rather sit in a booth or at a table. (New York Times)
Before you get crushed in the avalanche of big, bloated, expensive and overhyped year-end movies, seek out Man in the Chair, one of the smaller accomplishments that deserves special attention. (New York Observer)
Groupon is part of an elite club of social Internet companies that is fanning investor ardor for the next generation of technology giants. (New York Times)
It [the restaurant] evokes the serenity of a dojo along with some of the buzzy excitement of one of those clothing stores that displays very little clothing. (New York Times)
The Argo MP/3G-2 viewer ($199) is one of the few video glasses that does not require a separate control box. (New York Times)
One of those rare novels that seems to appear out of nowhere and then dazzles and bewitches and inspires. (James Patterson blurb for the novel The Art of Fielding, by Chad Harbach, in New York Times advertisement)
I’m afraid I’m one of those people who largely has left it [zinfandel], though I once loved it. (New York Times
In reviewing the first of the four “Julie” books, “A Death in the Life” (1976), in The Times, Anatole Broyard wrote, “Mrs. Davis is one of that disappearing breed of novelists who still believes in likable women.” (New York Times)
If you are one of those jaded creatures who has grown weary of tarte Tatin, then the grilled and caramelized peaches in the version here may revive you. (New York Times)
If you are one of those people who believes that ingredients should always be treated with respect, by all means stay away from Biang!, an excitable name for a frequently exciting new restaurant in Flushing, Queens. (New York Times)
BookCourt, a neighborhood fixture in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, is one of the stores that has been thriving despite competition from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. (New York Times)
Springsteen may well turn out to be one of those rare self-conscious primitives who gets away with it. (Robert Christgau, quoted in Runaway Dream: Born to Run and Bruce Springsteen’s American Vision [Bloomsbury], by Louis P. Masur)
This [a retrospective of Salvador Dali’s work] is one of the blockbuster art exhibitions that routinely bypasses Pittsburgh. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
There’s a world of virtual crime out there today, replacing the old bank holdups and breeding a new kind of über-fiend specializing in child pornography, credit-card fraud and identity theft; Diane Lane plays one of the techies who tries to trace them. (New York Observer)
“No. 1 son” Bill Charlap, one of the count-’em-on-one-hand jazz pianists who deserves to be called a prodigy, once again accompanies his mom with chords, musical phrases and amusing grace notes that embellish and enrich her sweet, no-nonsense vocal sensitivity. (New York Observer) [Note that prodigies must replace a prodigy.]
Though readers who care only whether Mr. Obama can fix the economy or win re-election may find the amount of detail lavished on his back story overwhelming, at times even tedious, those who persevere will find that the book has the cumulative impact of one of those coming-of-age novels that traces the remarkable ascent of a young man of humble origins to the uppermost reaches of power, complete with all the accidents of circumstance and the willed transcendence of those conditions. (New York Times)
Only four countries export metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, and the newly merged company will be one of the few mining firms in the world that has access to sufficient port and rail infrastructure to expand exports substantially over the next several years. (New York Times)
Comptoir des Cotonniers—the name translates, unromantically, to “counter of cottons”—is yet another one of those companies, like A.P.C. and Agnès b., that trades on the French reputation for bon chic bon genre casual wear. (New York Times)
And the huge annual meeting of the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture is one of the few events that brings experienced Amish farmers and new “English” farmers together. (New York Times)
Then there’s a Fernet-Branca ice cream sandwich, a dish that’s as polarizing as Fernet-Branca itself. The ice cream plays down the bitterness of the liqueur and brings out its herbal and minty flavors, but you might be one of the people who thinks that the smiley face drawn on the sandwich’s paper wrapper is an ironic joke. (New York Times)  [In the first sentence, a hyphen must be inserted between ice and cream; see Chapter 86.]
Like Krazy and Ignatz, Carville and Matalin, Cupid and Psyche or Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, the peanut butter and pickle sandwich is one of those unlikely pairings that shouldn’t work, but does. (New York Times) [Note that the phrase peanut butter and pickle sandwich should be sporting three hyphens, as peanut-butter-and-pickle sandwich; see Chapter 86.]
“Outdoor HDTV” is one of those phrases that makes you instinctively nervous, like “lead baby rattle” or “radical president.”  (New York Times)
Pennsylvania is one of the few states that offers couples the option of a self-uniting marriage license. (Pittsburgh City Paper)
[the first and final sentences of a book review] The writer James Purdy was born near Hicksville, in northwestern Ohio, one of those American place names, like Buttzville, N.J., that’s almost too piercing to be real. . . . He remains one of those American originals who is mostly more interesting to read about than to actually read. (New York Times)  [Substitute that are for that’s in the first sentence.]
Ripping off your lapel mike and storming out of the studio may feel good and look macho, but it will tend to cut down on future invitations. Besides, you can only get away with that sort of Jack Paar gesture once. Do it more than once and you’ll look like one of those hotheads who’s always leaving the restaurant in a huff (“Grab your coat, Muriel, we’re going—no busboy’s going to talk to me that way!”). (Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror [Miramax Books], by James Wolcott)  [In the third sentence, substitute who are for who’s. Bothered by the positioning of the adverb only in the second sentence?  See Chapter 22.]
Occasionally, sentences that include a one of those people who or one of the things that construction require more than the reconjugation of a verb. In the following excerpt, the verb following who is a verb (said) whose singular and plural past-tense forms are identical and that therefore needs no adjustment. But the pronoun and the verb in the nominative dependent clause that follows who said—a clause beginning with an implicit that—need to be pluralized.
Longtime feature writer and religion columnist Sally Quinn, wife of Ben Bradlee, was one of the few who said she isn’t surprised by the decision to unload The Post, which accounts for a small portion of revenue for a public company that is largely focused on educational products and services. (thedailybeast.com)
Longtime feature writer and religion columnist Sally Quinn, wife of Ben Bradlee, was one of the few who said they weren’t surprised by the decision. . . .
Each of the following two examples requires that the two italicized verbs and the italicized pronoun be pluralized.
Of course, it always helps to have Michelle Williams, one of those rare actresses who expresses more the less she says. (Dallas Morning News)
Of course, it always helps to have Michelle Williams, one of those rare actresses who express more the less they say.
[the uppercasing is retained from the source] Fingers began to twitch with fear and boredom, for PACHTER is one of those speakers who never reaches a full stop but keeps connecting clause to clause to clause, his sentences forming a string of boxcars stretching endlessly into the night. (Critical Mass: Four Decades of Essays, Reviews, Hand Grenades, and Hurrahs [Doubleday], by James Wolcott)
. . . PACHTER is one of those speakers who never reach a full stop but keep connecting clause to clause to clause, their sentences forming a string of boxcars stretching endlessly into the night.
 

^^   18

My family is recovering from my bad grammar. No, wait: My family are recovering from my bad grammar?
 
Family belongs to a troublous subset of nouns called collective nouns. (Among the many others are audience, crowd, team, throng, committee, staff, faculty, band, group, quartet, and trio.)  A collective noun (1) names a pair or a group of people but (2) does not end in s or es.
      Collective nouns are exasperating because every time you use one, you must decide whether to interpret it in a singular sense or in a plural sense. You otherwise won’t know whether the noun needs a singular verb or a plural one.  Two rules will guide you.
      First, if you want to emphasize the group as a single entity with a common goal or viewpoint, choose a singular verb (Her band is performing tonight).
       Second, if you want to emphasize the group as a collection of individuals differing in their opinions and objectives, choose a plural verb (Her band are butting heads over titles for the new album).
     The plural noun microphones in the prepositional phrase at the end of the following example is a clue that the sentence is emphasizing the individual members of the choir.
In the villa’s great hall, a traditional choir is wandering around, singing into wireless microphones. (New York)
In the villa’s great hall, a traditional choir are wandering around, singing into wireless microphones.
Things get complicated, though, as soon as a pronoun referring back to the collective noun enters the picture. If you’ve decided on a singular verb for the collective noun, the pronoun must also be singular. If you’ve chosen a plural verb, the pronoun must be plural. You therefore have to settle on either a singular or a plural interpretation of the collective noun and then be consistent with both the verbs and the pronouns.
      It is unbecoming, even unnatural, for a collective noun to behave as if it’s both singular and plural—especially within the bounds of a single sentence. Such an identity crisis requires emergency grammatical therapy. In each of the following excerpts, the collective noun is italicized, the verb is underlined, and any pronoun with the collective noun as its antecedent is boldfaced.
Around the time [Robert] Frost wrote those words, his family was living what he termed their “mildly literary life” in a London suburb, calling occasionally on [Ezra] Pound (“six inches taller for his hair,” with a coat of “heavy black velvet”) and Yeats, both of whom had endorsed Frost in ways that Frost found inadequate. (New Yorker)
The whole family has been remarkably magnanimous ever since, even when my findings surprised them and contradicted what they had always believed to be true. (Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore [Farrar, Straus and Giroux], by Linda Leavell)
On the hottest day of the summer in 1935, just a few years before the war, the wealthy, vacationing Tallis family is expecting guests at their vast country estate. (New York Observer)
The family was among the founders of the West Harlem Business Group, and was among the most vocal about their unwillingness to sell. (New York Times
Whereas in the 1950s families displayed a wedding photo, a school photo and maybe a military photo in their homes, the average middle-class American family today walks amid 85 pictures of themselves and their pets. (Time)
Lowery’s family is bristling under instructions from her lawyer not to talk, but in brief comments on the phone, they say their daughter loved Stein, that Stein’s family had fingered Natavia as the murderer from the beginning, and that they believe her confession was coerced—that she begged for the chance to call her family.  (New York)
In each sentence, a singular verb clashes with one or more plural pronouns, and the inconsistency must be resolved. Because it is unlikely that the members of the family in the sixth example were all talking on the phone at once, the plural interpretation is inevitable, so the underlined verb must be pluralized. A plural interpretation is also unavoidable in the second and the fifth. The singular interpretation best suits the fourth example. The first and third examples, however, could go either way.
     Sometimes, though, family isn’t quite the right word. In the following sentence, for instance, the noun parents is more precise, and its substitution for family will require a plural verb, which will agree with the plural pronoun.
The family was meeting weekly with the transplant surgeon Dr. Shah, their son’s main physician, and he told them there was a chance for survival.  (Wall Street Journal)
The parents were meeting weekly with the transplant surgeon Dr. Shah, their son’s main physician, and he told them there was a chance for survival.
In an unconscious gesture of solidarity, Aronofsky’s team often adopts his current hair style—recently a shaved head and a thick beard—as if someone were mass-grooming them using the magnetic Wooly Willy game. (New Yorker)
The plural interpretation should prevail here.
The crew is trained for polar conditions and they will use ‘super-telephoto’ lenses to record the whale slaughter. (Daily Mail [U.K.])
The crew isn’t acting in unison, so the plural interpretation makes more sense here. The verb needs to be pluralized, and the same is true of the following example, which emphasizes the individual members of a crew, all of whom are donning swim trunks and wearing “their most crisp khakis.” 
In recent days, the KJP crew has washed ashore on Martha’s Vineyard, posing on the sand in front of the Edgartown lighthouse, donning swim trunks for a group cannonball, wearing their most crisp khakis for a walk through Edgartown. (New York Times
Similarly, in the following excerpt, the emphasis is on the members of a crew as individuals. 
The whole crew is learning to work during the day, to keep business hours as opposed to nightlife hours, and their eyes all have the strained look of pupils just adjusted after years spent in the dark. (New York)
A plural verb is required in the next sentence as well.
The trio was leaving a dorm room when police apprehended them.   (Daily News [New York])
Well schooled in the canvas of Halloween spooks and cemeteries at midnight, the Depp-Burton team has made so many creepy films together they now work in shorthand. (New York Observer)
The adverb together implies cooperation among the members of the team, so the plural interpretation must be handled consistently throughout the sentence.
Perhaps, to be uncharitably charitable, the press corps was bored into stupefaction by Bush, so hypnotized by his mindless reiterations that they could no longer register the meaning of his words, only their staccato rhythm. (Attack Poodles and Other Media Mutants: The Looting of the News in a Time of Terror [Miramax Books], by James Wolcott)
One could defend either a singular or a plural interpretation here, though the plural is the safer bet.
Budget-friendly musical showcases abound while the Association of Performing Arts Presenters is in town for their yearly cultural shopping spree. (Village Voice)
The emphasis here is on the organization as a unified entity, an institution of sorts, so the singular interpretation is inevitable; the pronoun needs to be singularized.
But also the hip-hop audience is aging into maturity and craves shelf items that speak to their passions. (New York Times)
Unless the writer intends to emphasize that the hip-hop audience is homogeneous rather than heterogeneous (in which case all the writer needs to do is substitute its for their), the verbs is and craves should be pluralized, to agree with the plural pronoun their.
As an entire generation of parents panics about hookup culture and its effect on their daughters, it’s easy to write off the emotional lives of boys. (Time)
The plural interpretation makes more sense here because individual sets of parents are concerned about their daughter or daughters.
The British public now has one month to pick their favorite. (Wall Street Journal)
Individuals are expressing their preferences, so only a plural interpretation will work here.
The British public now have one month to pick their favorite.
 Most evenings, a crowd of familiar faces congregates at the long bar, helping themselves to trays of collard greens, mac and cheese, and fried chicken from a counter in the back, and tapping their feet to “Take the A Train” (though the 2 and 3 are closer). (New Yorker)
The plural interpretation should prevail here.
      The examples thus far have been single sentences. But errors in handling collective nouns often do not arise until a writer has moved from one sentence to the next.
The dining room staff makes a great show of brisk efficiency. They wear white coats and neckties, and somebody is always topping off your water while holding a splash-catching pad to the glass. (New York Times)
Since the staff are not performing their duties in lockstep, the plural interpretation is needed throughout. The same is true of the following two excerpts.
As the restaurant [Union Pacific] has matured, Mr. [Rocco] DiSpirito has taken control of the timing and the staff has grown more confident. They are clearly excited about the food they serve. (Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise [Penguin], by Ruth Reichl)  [A comma should follow timing; see Chapter 59.]
The one thing we’ve learned for sure is that Herman Cain’s staff has no idea what Herman Cain has been up to. Really, by now theyre probably so numb, you could come up to them and say: “Is it true your candidate was once a pirate?” and they’d just promise to look into it.  (New York Times)
Similarly, in the following excerpt, the emphasis is on the members of the crew as individuals.  
On a bitterly cold December day, the whole HBA crew—Oliver, Weinraub, Amato, Isiah, and fashion director Paul Cupo—is in the office prepping for Pitti. Clearly, theyve been bitten by the Italian bug—Renaissance portraits are taped to the seamless as inspiration, as is a camouflage made of human bodies as opposed to leaf shapes or colors. (New York)
In the next excerpt, the press (the print media: newspapers and magazines) needs to be treated plurally throughout.
As far as the press was concerned, all they knew for sure was that their circulation figures were “leaping by the hundreds of thousands” with each new twist to the story. (American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White, the Birth of the “It” Girl, and the Crime of the Century [Riverhead], by Paula Uruburu)
With the country in chaos, a shady group of scientists claims control. They have leaked a rumor that the disease was started by Jews, and they strong-arm Samuel—who belongs to a bizarre sect of “forest Judaism” (he w orships in a “synagogue hut”) and is trying to concoct a homemade defense against the toxin—into joining their institute and divulging his secrets. (Wall Street Journal)
It is obvious that individual members of the group strong-armed the man, so plural verbs and pronouns are needed throughout the excerpt. In the adverbial dependent clause of the next sentence, individual boys are comparing notes with one another, so the plural interpretation is called for.
Some of the episodes and conversations are glumly comical—as when a group of boys compares notes about marathon World of Warcraft  binges—but most are sad and disturbing. (New York Times
[about the Rolling Stones] The group was already typecast through their tabloid exploits as “outrageous” bad boys, so Mr. Russell expected a mother’s worst nightmare. (Wall Street Journal)
The writer wants to emphasize the band as an assortment of “bad boys,” so the verb must be pluralized.
      Below are five excerpts from a Wall Street Journal review of a book about the history of the indie-rock band Yo La Tengo. In each excerpt, with Yo La Tengo or band as the subject, the writer mixes a singular verb with one or more plural pronouns.
After Yo La Tengo records their 1986 debut album, we learn, Mr. Kaplan gets out of his car and loses his wallet.
Consequently, it is not until one-third of the way through this 362-page book that Yo La Tengo plays their first show.
On tour in the mid-1980s, the band meets North Carolina record-store clerk Phil Morrison, who not only offers a place to sleep that night but eventually becomes the band’s roadie and then their video director.
Yo La Tengo keeps chugging along on their own terms.
Through all the cultural eras in which Yo La Tengo has existed, their adherence to an independence “arrived at by happenstance, choice, heritage and creative toil” has stood them in good stead. No band sells as many records as they used to, but Yo La Tengo have always followed no one’s muse but their own, and they are still together after 28 years.
The first and second excerpts call for the singular interpretation; the third could go either way; and the plural interpretation is preferable in the fourth and and fifth.
     The mismanagement of collective nouns is rampant in the sections of newspapers and magazines devoted to listings of upcoming performances. (In the excerpts that follow, the boldfacing of band names has been retained from the sources; collective nouns functioning as subjects otherwise appear in italics.)
     A writer sometimes shifts from the singular to the plural and then back to the singular again—all within a single independent clause.
. . . the band drives a biodiesel-fuelled tour bus, plants trees to offset their carbon-dioxide output, and packages its CDs using entirely postconsumer recycled materials. (New Yorker) 

In the following two excerpts, each consisting of a pair of sentences, the writer treats the collective noun singularly in the first sentence and plurally in the second.

The Soundtrack of Our Lives is a Grammy-nominated Swedish power-pop act whose remarkable ambition was manifest on last year’s “Communion,” a two-disk reflection on conceptual classic rock. They’ll be joined by Nico Vega and Scary Mansion. (New Yorker)
The Board of Education, a kids’-music group from Seattle that’s fronted by the science teacher turned children’s novelist Kevin Emerson, is in the midst of its first tour of the Northeast. They bring their catchy advanced-placement repertoire here for an afternoon show on Feb. 20. (New Yorker)
Following are more excerpts debilitated by inconsistencies.
The musically rich SUNY Purchase college scene, which fostered such talents as Regina Spektor and Jenny Owen Youngs, also spawned O’Death. The five-piece folk-country band performs music as moody and dark as their name suggests, playing the banjo, ukulele, and fiddle with a rock-and-roll edge. (New Yorker)
The listing of three instruments most likely implies that the writer wants to emphasize individual musicians, so the plural interpretation should prevail here.
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra is a Montreal-based quintet led by the guitarist and provocateur Efrim Menuck. Though they are edgier and less epic than their sister band, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, they share an affinity for soaring string-driven melodies and, like Godspeed, are anchored by the impeccable musicianship of the bassist Thierry Amar. (New Yorker)
The plural interpretation works better here, too.
The Liverpudlian electronic ensemble Ladytron returns with a new album, “Gravity the Seducer,” a work full of the lush keyboard and synthesizer arrangements they are known for. (New Yorker)
The emphasis here is on the group as a whole, so the singular interpretation should win out.
The semi-obscure opening act, Vaz, is a muscular trio with roots stretching back to the early-nineties Minneapolis underground; they may be one of the most exciting low-profile groups in New York. (New Yorker
Here, too, the singular interpretation should hold sway. The same holds true for the following four excerpts.
[about the Billy Hart Quartet (the verb is, toward the end of the first sentence, was italicized in the magazine)] This sparkling foursome, bringing together the veteran drummer and three younger players (the pianist Ethan Iverson, of the Bad Plus; the bassist Ben Street; and the accomplished saxophonist Mark Turner), celebrates the release of a new album, “One Is the Other,” which shows that the group is achieving its potential. The band’s original compositions are intriguing, and their take on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Some Enchanted Evening” is a thing of true beauty. (New Yorker)
[about the band The Clean] While the group has been unable to re-create their success on the international stage, their influence has been global—it’s impossible to imagine what Pavement, Yo La Tengo, or any number of indie-rock heavy hitters would sound like without them. (New Yorker
[about the band One Direction] The apple-cheeked boy band du jour has a radio smash on its hands with “What Makes You Beautiful,” the lead single from its album “Up All Night” (Columbia). (With that record’s instantaneous success, One Direction became the first British group to open at No. 1 on the Billboard chart with a debut album.) This British-Irish gaggle, the slick product of Simon Cowell, was signed after they competed on “The X Factor” in the United Kingdom. For more information, consult your tween daughter. (New York Times)
[about the band WU LYF] The inscrutable cult that once cast their braggadocio to the farthest reaches of the Internet, World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation was revealed last year to be a cadre of Britons with true, aggressive art-rock talent. Its debut, “Go Tell Fire to the Mountain” (self-released), scrambled blood-curdling screams and disproportionately gorgeous guitar haze in an uneasy base for their worldbeat, kraut-rock and roots experiments. (New York Times)
In the following example, the emphasis is on the reuniting members of a band that had broken up, so the plural interpretation is unavoidable.
[about the band that dog. (whose name ends with a period)] A full 15 years after their last studio release, the ebullient power-pop screed “Retreat From the Sun” (Geffen), this quirky Los Angeles quartet rejoins for a handful of American performances. (New York Times)
In the next excerpt, the nouns harmonies and backing vocals, emphasizing the contributions of individual members, help a writer make a strong case for pluralizing the verb; otherwise, the four theirs and the one them need to be replaced with its and it.
[the capitalization is preserved from the book in which the sentence appears] Though the Association was big enough to have been the opening act at the MONTEREY POP festival, and their multilayered harmonies and sophisticated arrangements were sometimes worthy of BRIAN WILSON, their credibility was hampered by their wussy image, relentless deployment of ba-pa-ba-paaah backing vocals, and the fact that their main musical force, Terry Kirkman, played the recorder and the flute onstage—ultimately consigning them, perhaps unfairly, to the BUBBLEGUM ranks. (The Rock Snob’s Dictionary [Broadway Books], by David Kamp and Steven Daly) 
The singular or plural status of a collective noun in a sentence sometimes determines that one or more other nouns in the sentence must be correspondingly singular or plural as well.
The American political consultant class lives rarefied lives. (Wall Street Journal)
The singular verb lives (emphasizing the political-consultant class as a unit) clashes with the plural noun lives (emphasizing the individuals of which the political-consultant class is constituted).
The American political-consultant class live rarefied lives.
Excerpts about rock or pop groups can be weakened not only by problems with the agreement of pronouns with their antecedents but also by problems with pronouns remote from their antecedents.
Rahill Jamalifard, the lead singer of this local all-female quartet [Habibi], which takes its name from an Arabic term of endearment, is second-generation Iranian, and she counts Persian folktales and Zoroastrianism among her influences. The band’s garage-inspired songs, which take their cues from the Shangri-Las and other girl groups from the sixties, have an unexpected edge. They’re celebrating the release of a self-titled début album, in the company of two up-and-coming Brooklyn garage acts. . . . (New Yorker)

The first sentence consistently uses singular verbs (takes and is) for the group. The second sentence is also error-free. The contraction They’re at the start of the third sentence, however, introduces two problems. First, there’s a problem with agreement:  the band, previously regarded in the singular sense, is now regarded in the plural sense. Second, there’s the problem of a remote antecedent for the pronoun they: that pronoun, in the contraction, is intended to have band as its antecedent, but band appears in the previous sentence in possessive (that is, adjectival) form, as band’s, and therefore cannot serve as the antecedent (see Chapter 34). The antecedent, unhappily, is songs.

The band [OR group OR foursome OR quartet] is celebrating the release of a self-titled début album. . . .
 Trouble can arise even in a sentence about a group—such as the Ain’t Rights, in the following example—whose name is in plural form.
Things go wrong for the Ain’t Rights as soon as the Virginia-based indie-punk quartet reaches the Pacific Northwest town where they’ve been booked for a concert. (New Yorker)
Things go wrong for the Ain’t Rights as soon as the Virginia-based indie-punk quartet reach the Pacific Northwest town where they’ve been booked for a concert. OR: Things go wrong for the Virginia-based indie-punk quartet the Ain’t Rights as soon as they reach the Pacific Northwest town where they’ve been booked for a concert.
 

^^   19

Couples in Crisis
 
The noun couple, despite our tending to think of it as denoting two persons united into an indivisible whole, almost always requires a plural verb. Sentences in which couple appears, in fact, usually emphasize the two individuals of which the couple is (or once was) composed: The couple are getting married. The couple are separating. The couple have decided to get a divorce. The couple are thinking about giving their relationship one last chance.
     Only when the two partners are functioning together as a single entity is the singular verb appropriate: The couple is moving to Houston. The couple is honeymooning in Mexico. The couple has once again won first prize for its holiday decorations. In each of the following excerpts, however, the writer chooses a singular verb when only the plural interpretation is reasonable.
After a big-city couple loses their jobs, they try living at a free-love rural commune. (Pittsburgh City Paper)
The giveaways?  Not only the pronouns their and they but also the fact that each of the partners had a job.
If a middle-aged couple says that they are married and want to fly sitting next to each other, I say that they have been together for so long that I’m sure that they could overcome the separation anxiety for a few short hours. (New York Times)
The giveaways that plural verbs are needed throughout?  The pronoun they and, even more crucially, the reciprocal pronoun each other—emphasizing the two persons who form the couple.
Right in front of me is this old couple—old like over 80. They look like a nice old couple. They both have white hair. (Wall Street Journal)
The giveaways? They and, more significantly, both.
      In the following eleven excerpts as well, the plural pronouns they, them, and their are giveaways that plural verbs are needed.
The couple lives in a Houston high-rise with a live-in nanny for their daughters, 3 and 6. (Wall Street Journal)
So off the couple goes to the pound or pet store and they romantically choose their new addition.   (The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum [Broadway Books], by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh)
A couple with adult children makes their review a full-family affair, with a psychologist on hand in case the conversation gets heated. (Wall Street Journal)
In Before Midnight, life has moved on. The couple has twin daughters. They’re living in Europe, talking about the things long-term couples talk about: job troubles, annoying habits, the banal details of life. (npr.org)
All three Jesse/Celine films promote a sense of urgency as the couple at their center struggles to make their union a bulwark against the relentless flow of time—“before” some witching hour. (Film Journal)
[photo caption] The couple says the new owners are trying to force them out, a claim the owners deny. (New York)
The couple lives a glamorous life, mostly between London and Paris, but they also have a little place on Long Island in Amagansett. (New York Times)
The couple has stayed out of sight, ignoring requests for interviews and avoiding the clutch of reporters that was camped outside their Lower Manhattan apartment building. (New York Times)  [Note, too, that were needs to be substituted for was; see Chapter 18, about collective nouns, a category to which clutch belongs.]
But one older couple, an Asian man and his wife in their late fifties or early sixties, was weird from the start. They came into the store looking at jackets. (Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail [Portfolio], by Caitlin Kelly)  [The writer should replace looking with to look—unless the couple had been looking at jackets while entering the store.]
The couple was compelled, however, to plow their way through a tour, with Linda tremulously singing her way through songs about rejection and loss (“I wish I could please you tonight/But my medicine just won’t come right”). (New York Times)
If a couple admits they don’t have sex, that can have adverse effects on their rights: Immigration officials interviewing a bi-national couple may insist that a real marriage requires sex, while in the case of adoption, as Ms. Decker shares in an anecdote, “an asexual couple reported that they were adopting partly because they did not want to have sex to conceive a child themselves, and they were told they were not eligible to adopt because ‘if you’re asexual, you’re not fit to be married.’”  (New York Times)
In the following example, the giveaway is the phrase one of them.
One woman admits to a rape fantasy, which her partner (played by Lawson himself) struggles to fulfill; another man is aroused by his wife only when she sleeps; and a third couple is advised to try role-playing, although one of them finds it far too consuming to be bothered with its erotic side. (New Yorker) 
The giveaway in each of the next three examples is the reciprocal pronoun each other.
After lots of sparking and sparring, the couple falls into each other’s arms in the last scene. (New York Times
Among the many factors that make office romances tricky are whether the organization has specified policies about it, whether it’s a boss-subordinate relationship, and whether the couple has serious feelings for each other or are just engaging in a fling. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) [Note the shift to the plural verb are toward the end of the sentence. The sentence is also weakened by errors in pronoun-antecedent agreement (see Chapter 29).]
As this season’s edition of the ‘round-the-world reality race has unfolded, the couple has become famous for fighting with each other—and other contestants—in every episode. (New York Post)
In the following six excerpts, the emphasis is on the couple as two individuals who are talking with each other, holding each other, or reconnecting, so the verbs need to be pluralized.
The well-mannered estranged couple does not discuss new relationships unless there is something to be told. (The Fabulous Girl’s Guide to Decorum [Broadway Books], by Kim Izzo and Ceri Marsh)
The couple engages in witty, well-worn banter freighted with subtext. (Austin American-Statesman)
In another ad, the couple is cuddling. (New York Times)
Then, six months after the separation, the couple meets for dinner and the husband marvels at his wife’s sudden weight-loss: “This was a new Jackie, a far cry from the frumpy, defeated woman he’d been living with.”  (Wall Street Journal)
In the second film, the couple reconnects nine years later, as Jesse (now an unhappily married father) spends the last few hours of his European book tour—he wrote a novel based on their initial encounter—catching up with Celine in Paris. (theatlantic.com)
Simon Stawski, of Eat Your Kimchi, suggested that the way a couple communicates online amounts to “a new language of love.” (New Yorker)
The singular verb communicates makes sense if the sentence is intended to emphasize how the couple as a unit presents a united front when talking with others—as if the two members of the couple were speaking (or writing) as one. But the sentence is in fact about the two members of the couple speaking or writing to each other—each in her own way. A plural verb—communicate—is therefore required.
     A writer should aim for consistency throughout a piece of writing.
[from the fourth paragraph of an article] The couple is making a $359 kitchen appliance dubbed Nomiku, which people can use to sous-vide food—that is, cook meats and vegetables in airtight plastic bags in a water bath. [fifth paragraph] The couple didn’t take a traditional venture-capital route to launching Nomiku. In March, they flew to Shenzhen, China, to participate in a three-month program at hardware accelerator Haxlr8r, where they learned how to make a product prototype. In June, they decided to raise money through crowdfunding websites Kickstarter and AngelList. [from the sixth paragraph] Now they have snagged more than $580,000 through Kickstarter and are aiming to close on seed funding in the next few months. [twenty-second paragraph] For Ms. Qiu and Mr. Fetterman at Nomiku, the key is stretching out the cash they have raised. So far, the couple has spent $20,000 to make the prototype of their Nomiku machine. They plan to go into production in the next few months, while also seeking to [sic] other financing. (Wall Street Journal)
The plural interpretation is handled consistently except in the clauses  The couple is making a $359 kitchen appliance dubbed Nomiku and the couple has spent $20,000 to make the prototype of their Nomiku machine, in which the verbs is and has should be converted to are and have.
     Occasionally, a writer can argue in favor of either a singular or a plural interpretation throughout a sentence.
A Canadian couple is letting web users vote on names for their soon-to-be-born daughter. (Time)
A Canadian couple is letting web users vote on names for its soon-to-be-born daughter.   OR:  A Canadian couple are letting web users vote on names for their soon-to-be-born daughter.
   Finally, the rules governing the treatment of couple apply as well to the nouns pair and duo.
As they approach middle-age and deal with the trivial-yet-cumbersome entrapments of raising a family, the duo struggles to find a way to maintain a relationship that was more or less fueled by the fleeting passion of their younger years. (ign.com)
As they approach middle age and deal with the trivial yet cumbersome entrapments of raising a family, the duo struggle to find a way to maintain a relationship that was more or less fueled by the fleeting passion of their younger years.
[about the indie-rock act called Sleigh Bells] The noise-rock duo of Derek E Miller and Alexis Krauss follows its 2010 breakout album “Treats” with a second album that they describe as “the sonic equivalent of a beautiful shotgun to the head.” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
In the sentence above, the singular possessive pronoun its clashes with the plural pronoun-and-verb combination they describe. If the description attributed to the pair had been cowritten rather than spoken, improbably, in unison (the sentence unfortunately implies the latter), a singular treatment of duo throughout the sentence would be correct—but the plural treatment is justifiable as well. The writer merely needs to be consistent in treating duo as either singular or plural.  (The sentence also includes a mispunctuated throwaway appositive [see Chapter 66] and a mispunctuated throwaway adjectival dependent clause [see Chapter 72].)
[the boldfacing is retained from the source] CocoRosie is Sierra and Bianca Casady, a daring sister act specializing in eccentric sound collages. The duo is as much a visual enigma as a sonic one. Their look—tracksuits, mustaches, boxer shorts, headdresses, corsets, all homemade—could be described as tribal vaudevillian folk-hop, and their music is something like that, too. Their fourth and newest release, “Grey Oceans,” includes Cherokee chants, jungle rhythms, and snappy beats. Their songs are often catchy, and always strange—deranged, even: like dolls that come alive and haunt your dreams. (New Yorker
The writer mixes the singular verb is with plural pronouns (they and their) in describing the duo. A singular treatment of CocoRosie throughout the excerpt is the better choice, but a plural treatment could be defended; again, what matters most is achieving consistency throughout the excerpt.  
      In the next example, however, the emphasis is inarguably on the duo as a single entity, so its needs to be substituted for their.
How does Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s favorite indie-pop duo [Beach House] top their 2010 breakthrough? (Rolling Stone)
In each of the following two examples, the emphasis is on the two members of a pair, so the verb must be plural.
This mismatched pair has only one thing in common: They’ve both got less than a year left. (New York Observer)
Now the pair has collaborated on a pop record: Leon’s second album, Jeux d’Artifices, produced by Truman. (Wall Street Journal)
Couple, pair, and duo, in short, are collective nouns and need to be treated as such (see Chapter 18).

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