That story may well be apocryphal, but the principle is not. These days, however, the front page of the London Times can use 'appraise' instead of 'apprise' and no one seems to notice (though I did) and write in to complain (I didn't).
In today's Sunday Times, however, I suspect that we have an error of another kind: a case of a pedant going a step too far. If I am wrong -- and I make no claim to being a grammarian -- you will have the pleasure of writing in to let me know. After which I will tell you that you really ought to get out more.
The ST has a feature called 'Your hundred best holiday reads' and it contains short summaries of said books. Here's the summary of The Delivery Room by Sylvia Brownrigg.
A novel of depth and intelligence based around a psychotherapist and the odd assortment of patients that parades through her office.Now, to me this reads all wrong. It jars, and runs counter to my instinct.
You see what the summariser has done. He (it's probably a he; pedants usually are) has decided that the subject of the verb 'parades' is 'the odd assortment'. Assortment is a singular noun, and hence the summariser has used 'parades' instead of 'parade'. He has also used the pronoun 'that' instead of 'who'. He probably thinks that all this is not only grammatically correct, but also very clever.
But is it correct? Or is it too clever by half?
I think it is at least arguable that the words 'odd assortment of' constitute an adjectival phrase which qualifies the word patients. Consider what would happen if the phrase wasn't there: you would inevitably have to write:
A novel of depth and intelligence based around a psychotherapist and the patients who parade through her office.And the same would apply if you qualified the term 'patients' with the single word 'mad'. So I think that our summariser, in trying to be orfly correct, has in fact got it all wrong.
There is actually a point here, oddly enough. And it's not the grammatical one. The point is that anyone who wants to be a writer, or a publisher, really ought to develop (if they have not, preferably, absorbed it through breast milk) a sensitivity towards this kind of thing.
Fiction, in particular, does not have to be grammatically correct, and may frequently benefit from variations from same. But in non-fiction, if you're going to be really clever, then you had better make sure that you are being clever in the right way. It might be better, even in non-fiction, to be just plain old-fashioned readable.