On my way to the orchestra pit, I picked up a program, thick, shiny and freshly printed. As time allowed, I leafed through it eagerly, reading cast bios, lists of songs and, aaahhh, my own name. Like most people, I love seeing my name in print. Also included was an article I wrote, in fact the blog about the first rehearsal. The producer had read it and liked it so much that he wanted to print it. My first publish! I could not wait to see it. I scanned through the article, wondering if they had edited anything. I had given permission, thinking that it might have been shortened. Instead two sentences glared out at me from the middle of the page. What had they done??? Frustration bubbled up inside of me, as if someone had taken a piece of artwork and drawn a mustache on it with a Sharpie.
The original sentence reads thus:
A room full of strangers were opening instrument cases and claiming chairs with black music stands.
Whoever was doing the edit decided that the sentence was grammatically incorrect, as indeed it is.
This is how they decided to remedy the situation and this is how it appears (teeth jarringly) in the program:
A room full of strangers was opening instrument cases and claiming chairs with black music stands.
EEK! The ROOM was doing all of these things? It was opening CASES and setting up stands? I had meant that the strangers were doing these things. At the very least, the room-full [was? were?] doing them. Granted to be grammatically correct (and Mace-Dawg Schaefizzle-now-KFizzle, if you read this, you're going to be laughing till you fall off the chair) the correct verb when you take out the prepositional phrase (and without a hyphen in room-full) is "was" not "were". But it doesn't make any sense!
So, for all of you who do not keep a copy of the ALA style manual handy on the back of your toilets for easy reference, let me propose a correction which sadly will not appear in the already printed programs:
A room was full of strangers who were opening instrument cases and claiming chairs with black music stands.
Sigh. Two sentences later this enterprising editor also added a stand-alone sentence "Of nerves." Ugh. I would never have written that as an incomplete sentence but instead would have tacked it onto the end of the previous sentence. Words like "sigh" and "ugh" are the only words worthy of appearing in incomplete sentences.
I snapped the program shut angrily. Now all of Pullman would think I wrote it like that, a gross bit of nonsense right in the middle of a story. Maybe snooty Pullman would rather have a sentence that is grammatically correct even if it makes no sense. Perhaps they all read for grammar peculiarities rather than for content.
Now that the whole edit thing is off my chest, the show went fine. Timid, but okay. We only had parents and grandparents in the audience anyway. The only thing that really went wrong, beyond a couple of microphones not working was Oliver singing "Where is Love?" with his mouth full of bread.
And the show, as they say, goes on.