i newspaper, August 21, 2017

You can assume that unless you are told otherwise a newspaper story is going to be about people, not giraffes or parrots.

In the first story above, all four uses of ‘people’ can simply be deleted. To avoid repetition, I would rephrase the second par as follows:

More than 450 deaths have already been confirmed after . . .

The word ‘of’ is missing from the top par of the third leg. This is careless.

The penultimate par repeats the word ‘disease’ which could be avoided as follows:

Sierra Leone suffered a severe cholera outbreak in 2012, when at least 25,000 were infected and hundreds died.

In the second story, again the word ‘people’ is not needed at all. At the bottom of the second leg, ‘the death toll rose to 23 dead’ is obviously repetitive. Starting a story with ‘Indian authorities’ is scarcely an attention-grabber, and it would be surprising if they were not investigating. A better intro would be:

A train crash in which at least 23 were killed was the fourth major accident over the past year in India, where the world’s fourth-biggest rail network is grappling with chronic under-investment and overcrowding.






i newspaper, August 19, 2017

This must be the most unoriginal heading of all time. The Royal Mail produces a dozen or more special issues every year, and I guarantee that every time one is reported, someone thinks they are the first to come up with the ‘stamp of approval’ line – or doesn’t care that it has been used hundreds of times before.

‘Children’s teddy bear’? This is as opposed to the ones produced for adults, I suppose. Like ‘playground’, by definition a toy is for children. In the heading, by the same token, something made in the 1930s is by definition ‘old’, or at least ‘vintage’.

In defence of the sub, far too much space has been allocated to the story and the headline. A couple of paragraphs with a picture would have been plenty. However, given that the heading has to be written, how about

The battered vintage teddy that’s
dusted off to star on a stamp

One amazing thing is that despite devoting several acres of tedious text to the teddy, there was no space to list the other nine classic toys featured on the stamps, viz. Sindy, Spirograph, Stickle Bricks, W. Britain toy figures, Spacehopper, Fuzzy-Felt, Meccano, Action Man and Hornby Dublo. A brief discussion of each of these would have been far more interesting than the free ad for Merrythought.

The Times Magazine, August 19, 2017

On the topic of overdone headlines, I would guess that between 25 and 33 per cent of headlines about John Lewis use the Never Knowingly Undersold line. Give it a rest. Please.


I have just found these two horrors from the Daily Express dated August 18, 2017.

I think I saw the first version of the Stones heading in 1964, and it’s been back at regular intervals ever since. As for the Elvis one . . . You have simply got to avoid reaching for the first cliche that comes into your head. If you find yourself thinking ‘That’ll do’, it almost certainly won’t.

I am now going off for a quiet weep.


So few words, so many errors

The i bills itself as a ‘quality’ paper, so this stuff is not good enough. Both cuttings are from August 18, 2017, and I haven’t even got past Page 3.

In this heading, you can either have ‘$510m awaits one very lucky winner’ or ‘$510m waits for one very lucky winner’, but not ‘awaits for’. ‘Rollover’ is a noun. If you use it as a verb it is two words, as in ‘Roll over Beethoven’. I didn’t underline this, but it is not the ‘game’ which is rolling over, but the ‘prize’. Opinions vary about split infinitives but this one is unnecessary because ‘either’ is superfluous. I would insert ‘in’ before ‘one’ in the last sentence. A dollar amount should always be converted into sterling, and if the winner takes the lump sum, why is it less than the jackpot mentioned at the start of the story?

The possessive of ‘it’ is ‘its’, as with ‘hers’ or ‘theirs’. It is illiterate to add an apostrophe. ‘It’s’ is the short form of ‘it is’ and is correct in the second reference, but I think it is too informal for a news story. ‘Ongoing’ is horrible and unnecessary in this context. The stray comma in the last line suggests that not the slightest care has been taken to check the copy through. If I were the editor of the i, I would be most unhappy.



i newspaper, August 16, 2017

(54 words) Commas are tricky and often misused, as here. One easy rule is that a comma should not usually separate a subject from its verb, in this case ‘cow’ and ‘escaped’. So it should be ‘A cow which escaped . . .’

If you decide to treat the cow as ‘it’, don’t call it ‘she’ further down.

I would use the good phrase ‘return to the fold’ in the heading instead of the story. The current heading repeats the story.

‘Lake’ and ‘sea’ are not the same.

You don’t need to say ‘Norway’ if it is in the tagline.

Most important, was the cow recaptured or did it come back of its own accord? Having found the story on a website called ‘The Local – Norway’s news in English’, this is how I would have done it:

Lonely cow
returns to the fold

A runaway cow has turned up after three months living wild. Staff at Kalnes School of Agriculture, south of Oslo, said the cow jumped into Vestvannet lake in May when it was frightened and swam to an island. It returned and went into a neighbour’s barn at the weekend, apparently seeking the company of other cows. (56 words)


i newspaper, August 15, 2017

The person who handled this either has never seen a tortoise, or does not know what CPR is. The thing about tortoises is that they are encased in a hard shell, so administering CPR, or chest compression, would be impossible. And here is ‘after’ yet again. It has become an all-purpose incorrect substitute for a variety of words, in this case ‘by’ . . .

Daily Express, August 14, 2017

. . . and in this case ‘while’. The first example suggests the owner gave the tortoise the kiss of life for an hour (do you believe this? I don’t) then found some other way to resuscitate it. The second seems to be saying that Clarkson recovered from pneumonia then nearly died for another reason.

See Post #40 for more on ‘after’.


i newspaper, August 12, 2017

This is a truly pathetic headline. Obviously he was not ‘literally’ bowled over. You have to be very careful with the word or you can get silly images, such as ‘He literally exploded with anger’. This gives me the opportunity to revisit one of my favourite lines: ‘Welcoming him back, the family literally rolled out the fatted calf’.

Given that the club is called Philadelphia, I would put the geography higher up. I don’t see why it is even more amazing that his family were all over the place. I would make it clearer that the wickets were clean bowled, so that the father/umpire is not suspected of favouritism.

Here are a couple of suggestions for the heading:

Hat-trick at the double
Double hat-trick at 13

PS: If you insist on using ellipses, or three dots, there should be a full space at each end and half a space between them. They should not be jammed against a word like this.


i newspaper, August 12, 2017

(56 words) The apocryphal 1930s Times headline ‘Small earthquake in Chile. Not many dead’ is often quoted as the least significant heading ever written. I can’t believe someone has virtually reproduced it. The last thing you do is play down the drama and tell the reader the story is not worth reading.

This is how I would do it:

Quake forces
rush for safety

Office workers and students in the capital of the Philippines, Manila, were evacuated when their buildings were rocked by a strong earthquake yesterday. The tremor measured 6.3 on the Richter scale but there were no reports of casualties. Its epicentre was at a depth of 99 miles, and the deeper the quake the less risk of damage. (57 words)