#49

The Times, March 24, 2017

A principle of subbing is that you don’t make the reader do mental arithmetic. In this story both the headline and the second paragraph tell us the little girl vanished in 1970, but it is not until the seventh paragraph that we are told that this was 47 years ago. Yes, the reader could work it out, but he or she shouldn’t have to.

i newspaper, March 24, 2017

This is a much better way of doing it – the heading gives the date, the intro does the calculation. I would have put 47 years ago rather than nearly 50, but it’s good enough.

However both stories have the fault of calling a child of three ‘a toddler’. This term should be reserved for children who have just started walking, which is usually around the one-year mark, give or take a few months. By three most children are confident and steady walkers. I would say ‘toddler’ should not be used for a child of more than two.

Another point is that the Times says ‘the blond-haired’ child. A female is blonde, not blond, and you don’t need to say ‘blonde-haired’, just ‘the blonde child’.

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