As many of you – check that, a couple of you – all right, probably just Matt – know, I write for a living. That’s me, Mr. Paid To Write Guy. Jealous, huh?
Anyway, I’ve been working on a project for an unnamed department of the federal government, a department which begins with E and ends with ducation. This project is a follow-up on a project I did several years back, one which resulted in a document ignored by hundreds, if not thousands, of people in financial aid offices at colleges all around the country.
The process works like this: I write something, the designer I’m working with does her artistic magic, we send it off for review, we get comments back, we incorporate those comments, we send it off again, we get more comments back and so on in a circle that guarantees several people have jobs for at least a couple of years. And before you start in on wasteful spending, one of those people is me. So shut it. Okay?
Anyway, the latest round of comments involved the following phrase: “If one of these things happens”. The comment was “Shouldn’t that be happen?” See, they were thinking the “happens” applies to the word “things”, and if it did, “things happens” would be incorrect. So it wasn’t totally off base. But the “happens” applies to the word “one”, and you wouldn’t say “one happen”. You’d say “one happens”.
We have a regular conference call on Thursdays to discuss comments. As we were thinking about the call, it was pointed out the best way to explain this particular point would be the old Sesame Street song “One of these things is not like the other”. You wouldn’t sing “One of these things are not like the other” just as you wouldn’t say “If one of these things happen”. I was so pumped up to sing the song, to break into “One of these things is not like the other” in the middle of our conference call, but when we pointed out that the original was correct, the client just said “Okay – you guys are the word people.”
And now I’m bummed. Because how often do you have a justifiable reason for singing Sesame Street songs at work? That is, how often if you are not employed by the Children’s Television Workshop?