“Lead” Poisoning: An Open Letter to Pat Meehan

Dear Pat,

I generally don’t discuss politics on my blog, and I’m not about to start now. At the same time, however, I have to take issue with a recent mailer in which the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania asks me to vote for you based on your record of fighting to strengthen campus safety throughout the United States through your support of the Clery Act. My problem isn’t with your record; as a faculty member at Montgomery County Community College, I appreciate the value of a safe campus. As a member of the English Department, however, I must point out a glaring typographical error on the part of whoever composed the mailer in question.

Touting your record in relation to such an important facet of higher education as campus safety, the mailer reads, “Pat Meehan lead the fight to strengthen campus safety and protect students.” As you may know, the past tense of “lead” is “led.” As you may also know, the word “lead” can also refer to the chemical element listed as Pb on the periodic table. “Lead,” however, is not used as the past tense of “lead.” That the flyer in question draws the reader’s attention to the misspelled word by both underlining and highlighting it in red makes the mistake difficult to ignore. What’s more, the fact that this mailer ostensibly focuses on higher education renders the error especially egregious.

Although I’m rarely one to offer advice to those in the political realm, my recommendation to your friends in the Republican Federal Committee of Pennsylvania is identical to the recommendation I make to all of my students before they submit their work: proofread. More to the point, if you’re going to pander to educators — especially those who teach writing — you might want to make sure that you don’t go out of your way to draw attention to your spelling errors.

Warmest Regards,

Marc Schuster

PS: I think you’ll like my latest novel, The Grievers. You may even find a typo or two in it.

Exhibit A

11 thoughts on ““Lead” Poisoning: An Open Letter to Pat Meehan

  1. Love this! Good for you. Reminds me of a recent grad who applied for a job in a creative department I was running. We always gave babies a copy test because they have no experience. His, which was delivered back to me two weeks late, was full of spelling and grammatical errors. When questioned his response was: “That’s what spell check is for”. My response was: “Not in my creative department.”

  2. I’ve seen a lot of professional writers use “lead” for the past tense of “lead.” The only explanation I can come up with for this error is that they think it is analogous to “read.” (By the way, I think there’s the tiniest error in “whomever composed the mailer.” I believe it should be “whoever composed the mailer.”)

    • I guess you’re right. I was thinking that “whomever” was the object of “of” as opposed to the subject of “composed.” Boy, is my face read!

      • Not to worry. You’ve got company — if not good company, lots of it. I hate the whole “who/whom” and “whoever/whomever” mess. I don’t understand why we need both “who” and “whom.” I’d be happy if “whom” and “whomever” went away for good; even when used correctly they sound pompous and pretentious. Not that I’m sayin’ your writing is pompous or pretentious. Boy, is my face read!

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