Daily Express, September 19, 2017

Two common errors neatly packaged in one sentence.

1. You have to be careful not to suggest that the offence took place at the court, eg ‘He admitted murder at the Old Bailey’. Granted, not many people would seriously imagine that the murder took place in court, or that Rooney was drink-driving at Stockport magistrates’ court, but it looks silly.

2. This construction is called a hanging or dangling participle, and the first clause refers to the first person mentioned after it. So this is clearly saying that the defence lawyer admitted speeding, not Rooney. My favourite example of this going wrong was on Radio 4 a while ago: ‘Fifty years after his suicide, Gordon Brown has apologised to Alan Turing . . . ‘

If I had been subbing this, I would have put both the court and the guilty plea higher up. One way to do this would be in the previous par:

At Stockport magistrates’ court yesterday, Rooney admitted drink-driving and was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work in addition to the driving ban. He was left publicly grovelling for forgiveness.

Michael Rainford, defending, said: ‘Wayne Rooney wishes to express . . . ‘

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