The Times, November 7, 2018

So what level of violence would have been acceptable? Mild? Moderate? If the police say idiotic things, you are not compelled to use them. It might have been more useful in the quest for information to use the space to say the attack happened in Bounds Green rather than ‘north London’.


Sunday Times, November 4, 2018

Two examples of complete lack of interest in the words. How can you have a piece about expensive and good-value champagnes without quoting prices? It is meaningless.

As for Federer and his twins – how can you say that one pair are identical and not specify whether the others are or not? (They aren’t – all you need to do is look at a picture.) One of the arts of subbing is not leaving the reader asking questions.


Sunday Times, November 4, 2018

If you get a ‘delayed drop’ story, where the reader is meant to wonder what is happening until the joke is revealed, don’t ruin it by giving it away in the headline.

An alternative for this might be

Who’s terrifying
Oxford’s finest?




Daily Express, November 3, 2018

Leaving aside the mysterious process by which a story about an actress eating an onion was judged important enough to feature in a national newspaper, here is an example of ‘inelegant variation’, the expression coined by Keith Waterhouse for a contorted effort to avoid repetition. For a selection to which this has now been added, see ‘The Compleat Sub-editor’ in Style Matters http://stylematters.margaretashworth.com/the-compleat-sub-editor/


The Times, November 3, 2018

Two cliches for the price of one, and neither worth using. This is a good example of a useless intro that can simply be lopped off to make a much better story. All you need to do is insert ‘in fees’ after ‘cut’ and change ‘voters’ to ‘parents’ to give you:

The cut in fees apparently mooted by the Augar review might appeal to parents. But it could be catastrophic  . . .


2018 British Journalism Awards shortlist revealed: ‘This is what Dame Cairncross needs to protect’

Press Gazette is proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 British Journalism Awards for public interest journalism.

Chairman of judges, Press Gazette editor-in-chief Dominic Ponsford, said:

“As the Cairncross Review continues its work examining the sustainability of high-quality journalism in the UK, the work on display here provides ample evidence of the tremendous good which our industry does. And it shows the vital importance of finding a sustainable future for robust probing journalism which holds power to account in the digital age. This is what Dame Cairncross needs to protect.”

Extracts from Press Gazette on its journalism awards, October 2018

Press Gazette is the trade publication for journalists. I suppose that since standards of journalism have slipped so disastrously over the last ten or 20 years it is only fitting that the editor-in-chief of Press Gazette should display his own ignorance. When a woman is appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) she is addressed or identified as ‘Dame Firstname’, not ‘Dame Surname’, in the same way as a man who has been knighted. Thus this reference should be ‘Dame Frances’, not ‘Dame Cairncross’.


The Times, October 18, 2018

A strong contender for Worst Headline of the Year Award. How often do police not use cars in a raid? When they ride bicycles? Go on horseback? Perhaps tanks? In the old days this would be thrown back at the sub with some abuse. My attempt would be

The Climbing Squad

As for the copy, anyone who does not realise  that he or she has repeated ‘force’ within nine words really should not be in the job.



Mail Online, September 30, 2018

This was sent to me by a Birkenhead native, outraged that his home town is now considered to be in Liverpool. The two places are on opposite sides of the Mersey, so this is like saying that Grimsby is part of Hull, or that Portsmouth is on the Isle of Wight.

I imagine the error arose because the sub saw ‘Merseyside’ and ignorantly equated that with Liverpool. Personally I would not consider it necessary to add ‘Merseyside’ to Birkenhead. The rule of thumb used to be that if a town had a football team you did not need to give the county. Birkenhead has a football team but it is called Tranmere Rovers, and it is obviously asking far too much for a Mail Online sub to know that.