i newspaper, January 4, 2017

This reads:

China’s monopoly over its salt industry – which has existed in some part for more than 2,000 years and predates the Great Wall – is set to ease; new regulations allow private companies to enter the previously state-run market. Under the new laws, wholesalers will be permitted to modernise distribution.  (48 words)


Many subs believe shorts are rather beneath them, but in my view they are the best test of ability. Any fool can tick up a page lead.

This is how I would amend and (I believe) improve this one:

China’s state monopoly over its salt industry, which has existed for more than 2,000 years, is being eased. Private companies are to be allowed to enter the market and set their own prices. Non-government salt sellers have been imprisoned even in the past decade. (44 words)

1 Insert ‘state’. Although it is in the headline, that is not enough. The story must be clear on its own, and without the word state it isn’t.

2 Replace dashes with commas. It is not a change of subject.

3 Delete ‘in some part’. Should this be ‘parts’? It doesn’t mean much anyway.

4 Delete ‘predates the Great Wall’. So what? If you don’t know the dates of building the Great Wall, and this piece isn’t going to tell you, it is meaningless.

5 Replace ‘set to ease’ with ‘being eased’. There is nearly always a better construction than the weary and lazy ‘set to’.

6 Replace semi-colon with full point. Semi-colons have a very limited use in news stories, and in any case this should be a colon as it expands upon the previous clause. I would not use that either.

7 Delete ‘new regulations’. What a dead phrase and after all this is a NEWSpaper.

8 The insertion of ‘state’ in the first line removes the need for ‘previously state-run market’.

9 Insert ‘and set their own prices’. This is the whole point of the story.

10 Delete ‘Under the new laws, wholesalers will be permitted to modernise distribution.’ Avoids repetition of ‘new’ and in any case does this chunk of jargon add anything? I don’t think so, but removing it allows space to

11 Add an interesting fact (found on the FT website).

As for the heading, the interesting fact suggested a better heading (in my view):

Shake-up for China’s
outlaw salt sellers

If the presence of the tag CHINA above the story forbids repeating the word in the headline, then it could be

Shake-up for the
outlaw salt sellers





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