i newspaper, August 19, 2017

This must be the most unoriginal heading of all time. The Royal Mail produces a dozen or more special issues every year, and I guarantee that every time one is reported, someone thinks they are the first to come up with the ‘stamp of approval’ line – or doesn’t care that it has been used hundreds of times before.

‘Children’s teddy bear’? This is as opposed to the ones produced for adults, I suppose. Like ‘playground’, by definition a toy is for children. In the heading, by the same token, something made in the 1930s is by definition ‘old’, or at least ‘vintage’.

In defence of the sub, far too much space has been allocated to the story and the headline. A couple of paragraphs with a picture would have been plenty. However, given that the heading has to be written, how about

The battered vintage teddy that’s
dusted off to star on a stamp

One amazing thing is that despite devoting several acres of tedious text to the teddy, there was no space to list the other nine classic toys featured on the stamps, viz. Sindy, Spirograph, Stickle Bricks, W. Britain toy figures, Spacehopper, Fuzzy-Felt, Meccano, Action Man and Hornby Dublo. A brief discussion of each of these would have been far more interesting than the free ad for Merrythought.

The Times Magazine, August 19, 2017

On the topic of overdone headlines, I would guess that between 25 and 33 per cent of headlines about John Lewis use the Never Knowingly Undersold line. Give it a rest. Please.


i newspaper, August 18, 2017

To be ‘in the firing line’ means to be one of an execution squad. If you are the target, as here, you are ‘in the line of fire’. Maybe it is a small point, but there is no harm in getting it right.


So few words, so many errors

The i bills itself as a ‘quality’ paper, so this stuff is not good enough. Both cuttings are from August 18, 2017, and I haven’t even got past Page 3.

In this heading, you can either have ‘$510m awaits one very lucky winner’ or ‘$510m waits for one very lucky winner’, but not ‘awaits for’. ‘Rollover’ is a noun. If you use it as a verb it is two words, as in ‘Roll over Beethoven’. I didn’t underline this, but it is not the ‘game’ which is rolling over, but the ‘prize’. Opinions vary about split infinitives but this one is unnecessary because ‘either’ is superfluous. I would insert ‘in’ before ‘one’ in the last sentence. A dollar amount should always be converted into sterling, and if the winner takes the lump sum, why is it less than the jackpot mentioned at the start of the story?

The possessive of ‘it’ is ‘its’, as with ‘hers’ or ‘theirs’. It is illiterate to add an apostrophe. ‘It’s’ is the short form of ‘it is’ and is correct in the second reference, but I think it is too informal for a news story. ‘Ongoing’ is horrible and unnecessary in this context. The stray comma in the last line suggests that not the slightest care has been taken to check the copy through. If I were the editor of the i, I would be most unhappy.



i newspaper, August 16, 2017

(54 words) Commas are tricky and often misused, as here. One easy rule is that a comma should not usually separate a subject from its verb, in this case ‘cow’ and ‘escaped’. So it should be ‘A cow which escaped . . .’

If you decide to treat the cow as ‘it’, don’t call it ‘she’ further down.

I would use the good phrase ‘return to the fold’ in the heading instead of the story. The current heading repeats the story.

‘Lake’ and ‘sea’ are not the same.

You don’t need to say ‘Norway’ if it is in the tagline.

Most important, was the cow recaptured or did it come back of its own accord? Having found the story on a website called ‘The Local – Norway’s news in English’, this is how I would have done it:

Lonely cow
returns to the fold

A runaway cow has turned up after three months living wild. Staff at Kalnes School of Agriculture, south of Oslo, said the cow jumped into Vestvannet lake in May when it was frightened and swam to an island. It returned and went into a neighbour’s barn at the weekend, apparently seeking the company of other cows. (56 words)


i newspaper, August 15, 2017

The person who handled this either has never seen a tortoise, or does not know what CPR is. The thing about tortoises is that they are encased in a hard shell, so administering CPR, or chest compression, would be impossible. And here is ‘after’ yet again. It has become an all-purpose incorrect substitute for a variety of words, in this case ‘by’ . . .

Daily Express, August 14, 2017

. . . and in this case ‘while’. The first example suggests the owner gave the tortoise the kiss of life for an hour (do you believe this? I don’t) then found some other way to resuscitate it. The second seems to be saying that Clarkson recovered from pneumonia then nearly died for another reason.

See Post #40 for more on ‘after’.


i newspaper, August 12, 2017

This is a truly pathetic headline. Obviously he was not ‘literally’ bowled over. You have to be very careful with the word or you can get silly images, such as ‘He literally exploded with anger’. This gives me the opportunity to revisit one of my favourite lines: ‘Welcoming him back, the family literally rolled out the fatted calf’.

Given that the club is called Philadelphia, I would put the geography higher up. I don’t see why it is even more amazing that his family were all over the place. I would make it clearer that the wickets were clean bowled, so that the father/umpire is not suspected of favouritism.

Here are a couple of suggestions for the heading:

Hat-trick at the double
Double hat-trick at 13

PS: If you insist on using ellipses, or three dots, there should be a full space at each end and half a space between them. They should not be jammed against a word like this.


i newspaper, August 12, 2017

(56 words) The apocryphal 1930s Times headline ‘Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead’ is often quoted as the least significant heading ever written. I can’t believe someone has virtually reproduced it. The last thing you do is play down the drama and tell the reader the story is not worth reading.

This is how I would do it:

Quake forces
rush for safety

Office workers and students in the capital of the Philippines, Manila, were evacuated when their buildings were rocked by a strong earthquake yesterday. The tremor measured 6.3 on the Richter scale but there were no reports of casualties. Its epicentre was at a depth of 99 miles, and the deeper the quake the less risk of damage. (57 words)



i newspaper, August 11, 2017

If you are doing a story about a grammar or punctuation error, it’s a good idea to get your own version right. Although ‘plural’ names such as Dickens or Charles end in ‘s’, they are singular and therefore take an apostrophe and an extra ‘s’. So this should be ‘Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations’. In the intro, there is no reason to put ‘is reported to have cost’; the council has confirmed the sums involved.

As for the heading, why is the word ‘misplaced’ in quotes? Is there some dispute about it? And could there be two more boring words to include than ‘borough council’? I would suggest:

What the Dickens? Apostrophe error costs £1,200


i newspaper, August 11, 2017

(116 words) This is sloppy, with its misplaced word, three ‘afters’ and a ‘following’. ‘Told how’ should be avoided.You can’t call someone a ‘hero’ in quotes unless there is a quote to back it up. (Actually I am old-fashioned enough to prefer ‘heroine’ for a woman.) Was the nurse on the bus or passing by? (She was on it.) I would not put ‘south London’ in the intro, because readers without a connection to south London may move on to another story. I don’t think it makes the best of the drama either, even with the use of ‘desperately’.

This is how I would do it:

crash driver
‘blacked out’

The driver of a bus which ploughed into a parade of shops yesterday apparently blacked out at the wheel.

Ten people were injured in the crash during the morning rush hour in Battersea, south London.

Nurse Amy Mullineux, who was on the 77 double-decker, tried to give emergency treatment to trapped passengers and the driver.

‘He said he blacked out before the bus hit the shop,’ she said. ‘He doesn’t remember hitting anything. The paramedic told me they think he had some kind of fit.’

Ms Mullineux, 40, said she was forced to flee because of fears that the bus would burst into flames. (102 words)

Removing the repetitions makes it a few words shorter than the original but I dare say there was more copy.