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Several years ago, I recall learning an English term that described the following sort of error:

  1. I write (or begin writing) a sentence without error.
  2. I decide to change something in the sentence.
  3. I forget to change the rest of the sentence to fit with the changes I made.

For example, let's say I write the following (step 1):

I ate both an apple and a banana.

Then I remember I didn't actually eat a banana, so I erase and a banana (step 2):

I ate both an apple.

But I forget to erase the word both (step 3), so my sentence becomes ungrammatical!

I'd like to be able to refer to this kind of error. Unfortunately, I've forgotten the term I learned, and I've also forgotten exactly where I read it. I'm fairly certain it was somewhere on Usenet, possibly in sci.lang.japan or alt.usage.english. And though I've searched around on Google Groups, I'm afraid I've been unable to find the post in question.

What bits I do remember are so hazy that they're probably useless and unreliable, but I suppose I can add them anyway: I think it was a copy editor who shared the term. And while trying to remember, I had the feeling that it was around eleven letters long and contained the letter 'G'--though I'm afraid these details are likely to be mistaken. (And of course, I would welcome an answer that differs from the term I'm trying to remember, as long as it fits what I've described.)

Anyway, I feel like this would be a pretty useful term to have, even if I end up defining it for people. Is there a usual term for this sort of error?

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I don't know any apporpriate term, but it might be seen as evidence of the law of unforeseen consequences at work. –  Barrie England Oct 1 '13 at 8:20
    
Not sure if this is what you're asking, but if you're quoting a source and they have made a typo or used an incorrect word, you would add (sic) after the incorrect term to show that you know it's a mistake. –  Leslie Oct 1 '13 at 15:27
    
This is a well-known problem in software engineering too, but I can't remember whether we have a specific term for it. –  Bradd Szonye Oct 1 '13 at 23:50
    
I don't have an answer for you, but I do this a lot. Often in answers to English questions, which is quite regrettable. (At least the fact that I know I do it often means I also fix it often!) –  WendiKidd Oct 3 '13 at 1:26

4 Answers 4

This type of error in sentence construction is called faulty parallelism. This term is however not specific for erroneous edits and corrections.

Parallelism in grammar is defined as the use of identical or equivalent syntactic constructions in corresponding clauses or phrases.

A number of examples of faulty parallelism can be found here.

With respect to editing and making corrections the only term that I can think of for this situation is a variant of Murphy's law known as Muphry's law, defined as follows:

Muphry's law: The principle that any criticism of the speech or writing of others will itself contain at least one error of usage or spelling.

In its full formulation Muphry's law dictates that:

  1. if you write anything criticising editing or proofreading, there will be a fault in what you have written;

  2. if an author thanks you in a book for your editing or proofreading, there will be mistakes in the book;

  3. the stronger the sentiment in (a) and (b), the greater the fault; and

  4. any book devoted to editing or style will be internally inconsistent.

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5  
I think the question refers not to this paticular type of error, but to the action of introducing an error (of any type) when trying to improve a sentence –  user53201 Oct 1 '13 at 10:47

Text may be spoken of as being corrupt. From wiktionary, the adjective means

Abounding in errors; not genuine or correct; in an invalid state. [eg] The text of the manuscript is corrupt

while the verb's past participle corrupted means debased or rendered impure by alterations or innovations, or made worthless, or changed from good to bad.

Logically, some near-synonyms such as vitiated, debased, perverted, and spoilt should also serve, but I've not seen them so used.

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Not an official term, but this is related to the concept of "after image" ("Nachbild") in perception psychology: an optical illusion where you still "see" something that has actually vanished. In the present case, the illusion is verbal (or, if you like, structural): you are still seeing the syntax that you have rejected, which indicates that you have rejected it incompletely.

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I'm curious whether your question is a cleverly planted example of the very phenomenon about which it inquires. You asked, "What's the term for an introducing an error when you edit a sentence?" Hmmm. Now's your chance to say yeah, you did it intentionally, just to test us. Regardless, this example demonstrates how easily overlooked such errors can be, even among readers of a website such as this who are presumably more concerned than the average person about the minutiae of our English language.

I shall follow the precedent set by others and assume you are inquiring not about a term that describes the act of introducing a grammatical error during the proofreading or editing process, but rather about a term that describes the class of errors so introduced.

Unless you would be satisfied with the term "editing error," and I suspect you would not, I believe the answer to your question "what kind of error is this?" depends rather tautologically upon the type of error committed. In my experience, grammatical errors most prone to being given birth during a too-hasty edit include incorrect subject-verb agreement, incorrect verb tense, ambiguous pronoun reference, nonparallel sentence structure, incorrect number agreement, omitted words that were but should not have been deleted and inclusion of stray words that should have been deleted but were not.

This list is certainly not all-inclusive. An error of over-correction, for instance, might be introduced in a text by an inexperienced or incompetent editor. I suppose any error that can be committed by a writer while writing can also be committed by an editor while editing. But I do believe these are the most common kinds of grammatical errors that crop up when one edits a few words here and there in a paper without taking the time to re-read all the surrounding text.

I fear I may have just answered a question you did not mean to ask. Apparently the term you seek has been hanging naggingly on the tip of your tongue. I cannot guess what it is but I am eager to know, when you find yourself able finally to spit it out.

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It's better to answer the question actually asked, despite the other divergent answers. Plus, it's an interesting question. –  Bradd Szonye Oct 1 '13 at 23:49
    
Oh, sorry--the error in my question title was not intentional, I'm afraid. –  snailboat Oct 2 '13 at 1:03

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