Usage and Grammar

Q. I’m editing a report for an author who wrote, “a comparison between the Soviet and the U.S.-led intervention.” I changed the singular to “interventions.” He questioned whether the plural was correct, as “there was only one Soviet and one U.S.-led intervention.” Will you intervene in our tiff and set us straight?

A. There were actually two interventions (one Soviet-led and one U.S.-led), so you must have a plural. Otherwise you’re suggesting a single intervention led by both countries jointly (like a junior and senior prom versus separate junior and senior proms), and “between” won’t make sense. It might be best to rewrite: “a comparison between the Soviet intervention and that led by the United States.”