Mistakes in Globe public editor column

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

When the subject of grammar is raised, get ready to duck. Now that I’ve read all 500-plus e-mails on readers’ grammatical pet peeves, I would like to turn to criticisms about my initial column on grammar.

In it, I referred to readers who sent me notes about such errors in The Globe and Mail over the past year. A few other readers raised excellent points about lapses in that column and also some others in that same day’s newspaper. So, mea culpa!

A number of doctors wrote in to say that the patients’ or (patient’s in the singular) past history is a correct phrase. (I quoted one reader saying “past history” is redundant.)

Here’s one that caught two errors in that statement: “In medical jargon the patient’s past history is different than the history of the current illness. So, when taking a history from a patient, the physician will ask about the symptoms and signs in the past week or so that led the patient to seek medical attention. Then the patient will be asked about his or her past history: previous illnesses, surgeries, hospitalizations, etc. And I assume the reader meant the patient’s past history rather than the patients’ past histories?”

That was kind to suggest that it was the reader’s mistake when I should have corrected it.

Here is another good point from a reader about my reference to abbreviations: “I don’t mind abbreviations without periods after each letter (depending) but it does bother me when someone calls them acronyms. An acronym is an abbreviation that can be (and usually is) pronounced as a word.”

To continue reading this column, please visit theglobeandmail.com, where it was originally published.

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