What, no square or rectangular people invited?
Ah, what a difference a comma can make.
We're not talking the comma of million dollar (Canadian) fame, but just the same, one that would have saved a little snickering here at CSJ central.
This one is from the New York Times (which seems in the past couple of days to be the mega-mart of editing errors -- see my previous two posts) and the post "A Bomb Squad for Wall Street" by William D. Cohan. Take a look:
The sentence in question is the lede: Gather round people, today we are going to discuss the highly opaque but hugely important topic of "O.T.C. derivatives" ...
Now, at a svelte 280 - OK, 300 . Well, OK 31 ... let's just not go there ... I probably qualify as a "round people" and can join the discussion. You scrawny 250-pounders, go away. Nothing to see here. (Although perhaps he is giving you a directive to pick up every rotund roustabout you see and bring them on over to the NYT site.)
Have you seen the problem by now? It's that "people" is a noun of address, and nouns of address are set off by commas to avoid just such ambiguity. So with the wayward comma thusly inserted:
Gather round, people, today we are going to discuss the highly opaque but hugely important topic of "O.T.C. derivatives" ...
It becomes clear, the snicker level goes down, and I don't have to worry about a bunch of 220-pounders hunting me down.