Some years ago Giles Coren was upset when a sub deleted the word ‘a’ from his Times restaurant column. His memo about it went viral in the subbing world. Here are a couple of extracts (please do not read if foul language offends you):

Dumbest, deafest, shittest of all, you have removed the unstressed ‘a’ so that the stress that should have fallen on “nosh” is lost, and my piece ends on an unstressed syllable. When you’re winding up a piece of prose, metre is crucial. Can’t you hear? Can’t you hear that it is wrong? It’s not fucking rocket science. It’s fucking pre-GCSE scansion. I have written 350 restaurant reviews for The Times and I have never ended on an unstressed syllable. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck.

The way you avoid this kind of fuck-up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it’s easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

Last week Coren put the wrong Latin phrase into his review (see Post #74). This week he has got a chef’s name wrong.

The Times, April 22, 2017

The normal shortening of Jonathan is Jonny, not Johnny, so, as Coren claims to have done, I looked it up on the internet – and lo and behold, it is Jonny Mills. Still, better to make mistakes than have subs changing your golden words.



i newspaper, April 21, 2017

(59 words) Saying ‘A Slovakian company called AeroMobil’ makes it sound as if it is has never been heard of before. In fact there have been stories about Aeromobil and its flying car for years. ‘Its version of’ adds nothing. ‘Whose’ is a word for people and animals. It can technically be used for objects but it feels clumsy. The wings do not fold back ‘like an insect’, but ‘like those of an insect’. I presume that ‘boosted’ means ‘powered’. ‘License’ is the wrong spelling; the noun in English is ‘licence’. (License is the verb and the US spelling of the noun.) I would hyphenate pre-order. And the big question: How much will the thing cost?

This is how I would do it:

A Slovakian company has unveiled a flying car which will be available for pre-order this year at a price of about £1million. The Aeromobil vehicle is a light-frame aeroplane with wings which can fold back, like those of an insect. It is powered by a hybrid engine and a rear propeller. A pilot’s licence will be needed to fly it. (60 words)

And what about that heading? ‘Set to’ is horrible. ‘Out of this world’ is meaningless in this context. This would be my effort:

£1million flying car
prepares for take-off




The Times, April 15

If you are going to try to show off by putting Latin phrases into your copy, it is a good idea to use the right one. ‘De facto’ means in reality as opposed to theory, for example ‘the country is de facto two separate states’. The phrase needed here is ‘ipso facto’, meaning ‘inevitably’ (literally ‘by that very act’). Or you could put ‘inevitably’.


Daily Express, April 8, 2017

As with many words and expressions, the ‘up’ is unnecessary. There is no such thing as a ‘downsurge’ from which it needs to be distinguished, so ‘surge’ is quite adequate.



The Times, April 14, 2017

Lovely picture, but the caption is short on detail. This one is much better:

i newspaper, April 14, 2017

This includes the interesting facts that the floor dates from 1850 and that it is normally protected by a wooden floor (I don’t know why it says ‘flooring’). The Times caption is limited by being only two lines, but there is no law of the universe which says a Times caption cannot be three lines. The style should not take precedence over the words.

Incidentally the woman in the picture is named Ann Lawton in the Times and Ann Lawler in the i, so one of them is wrong (or possibly both).


i newspaper, April 12, 2017

So who is this towering individual? I read through the whole piece but he is not named. (I give the rest below.) Turning to the internet version, I find Herbert Chapman is mentioned as a footnote, but even then his achievements are not spelled out (he led the club to its first FA Cup success and two First Division titles between the wars).

This is poor, and from an editor it is very poor. If you mention someone in this way, you must name him, and say why he is great, and not leave the reader wondering. In this very long piece there was plenty of room. The reader should certainly not have to look it up.