Daily Express, August 10, 2019

Parents adopt a baby, who is then ‘adopted’.  The parents are ‘adoptive’ parents.

PS A reader writes: Just looked it up – turns out the baby was biologically theirs, so no adoption involved at all. Goodness knows what word was meant to go there.


i newspaper, August 5, 2019

The first person to cross the Channel has by definition been successful – how can you do it unsuccessfully?

Apart from that, ‘to successfully cross’ is an ugly and unnecessary split infinitive. I don’t go to the wire any more about split infinitives, but in this case ‘successfully to cross’ would be much pleasanter and classier to read.



i newspaper, August 5, 2019

Unless you tell the reader what the present level is, for example 8.1metres, 15metres, 25metres, he or she cannot know whether the target 8metres is close to being reached or if there is a long way to go.

The water is not lowering itself, so I would say you need the passive voice, i.e. the water ‘has been lowered’.

I would also like an imperial equivalent once in a while.





Unusual item handed in to Merseyside police during firearms surrender

Warrington Guardian

What was it? A wooden leg? A banana? A first edition of the Gutenberg Bible?

No, it was a cannon shell from a Harrier jump-jet. So why didn’t the idiot sub say so in the headline?

‘Unusual item’ indeed. Harrumph.

Contributed by Tom McCarthy


Lightning strike death on Highlands mountain was ‘freak accident’

BBC News Online, June 9, 2o19

I would say that death by lightning strike is by definition an accident, freak or otherwise (and freak is a word I would avoid). Are there any recorded instances of deliberate lightning strikes? Since the victim has been identified, a better heading could have been:

Lightning victim named


i newspaper, May 22, 2019

I was pretty horrified by this bit of ignorance. Then I turned to the Times.


The Times, May 22, 2019

And this is in the leader!

Since these shockers appeared on the same day it can’t be one cretin working shifts on two papers. There must be two of them.


The Times, May 14, 2019

It can be hard to decide whether to make a group singular or plural. My feeling is that the larger the group, the easier it is to define it as singular eg ‘the audience was delighted’. As you get to smaller groups, they become more obviously composed of individuals and plural feels better. And I don’t think you can possibly say ‘a couple is’. I would suggest that it makes life easier to go for plural every time. (Sports teams are traditionally plural.) Anyway, the cardinal rule is that you make a decision about singular or plural and stick to it. This rule has been manifestly ignored here, with uncomfortable results.

In the intro and beginning of the third par, we have a group treated as singular. At the end of the third par we have the painful ‘The group points out (singular) that they (plural) . . .’

They remain plural at the start of the fourth par.

In the second leg we turn to the 1922 Committee which starts out as singular (‘its’). In the next par we see ‘In their (plural) letter the group of senior Tories warns (singular) . . .’

It’s a mess.





The Times, April 20, 2019

Rare?! I am willing to bet that there has never been a previous case of a pensioner on his roof in the early hours being shot with a crossbow. Even if the police (or others) say stupid things, it is a kindness to save them from themselves by not using them.