I asked for a one-letter correction to this sentence in the AP version of Eddie Fisher's obituary: "Their daughter Carrie Fisher became a film star herself in the first three 'Star Wars' films as Princess Leia, and later as a best-selling author of 'Postcards From the Edge' and other books."
My problem was that the sentence says Carrie Fisher became "a film star ... as Princess Leia, and later as a best-selling author." But she didn't, in fact, "[become] a film star ... as a best-selling author."
There were other solutions, of course: JeffScape preferred just to change "later as" to "later became" (though journalists hate to repeat verbs). TheWizard and ImNRtist both wanted to drop "as" entirely, making it "she became a film star ... and later a best-selling author of 'Postcards,'" etc. (But wouldn't that have to be "the best-selling author"?) We could edit forever, but no need; I was just interested to notice that the sentence's faulty grammar (if not its style) could be repaired with just one letter.
Some readers (naturally) found other nits to pick. David said (and Kat~: and Eleanor agreed) that my "was" could be misleading:
Carrie didn't die, her father did, and even if she did die, she still is the author of all her novels. Just as Mark Twain is the author of "Tom Sawyer," Carrie Fisher is the author of "Postcards From the Edge." If she "was" the author, who is the author now?But our sentence doesn't say Fisher "was the author of x." The obit writer starts her aside about Carrie Fisher at a point in the past: She "became a star" in "Star Wars," and she "later" became (or "was" -- but not "is") "a best-selling author of x." The writer says nothing of her current stardom or bestsellerdom, but I don't think many readers would conclude from that that she's dead. (Verb tense aside, this is her father's obit -- if Carrie had died before him, the writer would surely note it!)
And on a different punctuation point, Karen, who must be an editor, noted that because Carrie was Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds's only daughter together, her name should be set off with commas: "Their daughter, Carrie Fisher, became a film star herself." She's right, but this is a convention that copy editors tend to follow over a cliff; in fact, I devoted a recent Boston Globe column to this very rule, noting how much editorial time is wasted researching the existence of irrelevant siblings. So I ignored this minor violation. (After all, I am -- as advertised -- a recovering nitpicker.)
* As David points out in the comments below, Carrie Fisher is not in the movie "Postcards From the Edge" -- which I knew perfectly well in some unaccountably dormant part of my brain. I saw the film, in which Shirley MacLaine plays the mother and Meryl Streep the Carrie-ish daughter.