Can you spot the grammatical problem with this familiar sentence? Yeah, me neither.
A sentence like that one came up at work, and our very fine editors were deeply disappointed with me when I didn’t understand what was wrong with it.
It seems that the “in” in the sentence is doing double duty. The sentence should really go: “Calls will be answered in the order in which they are received.” Or, if you don’t mind a preposition at the end of a sentence: “Calls will be answered in the order they are received in.”
This is the sort of nuance that separates the grammatical sheep from the grammatical goats. And of course the Internet possesses all kinds of wisdom about it: here is one example. Fowler’s Modern English Usage calls the phenomenon”cannibalism”–the first “in” has swallowed the second one.
I opined to the editors that this kind of “cannibalism” wasn’t that big a deal, and one of the editors opined back that it was “deplorable, repugnant, and vile.” Tough crowd.