#256

Sunday Times, November 5, 201

(1) The underlined sentence is clumsy to say the least. There is nearly always an alternative to ‘what is/was/could be’. I would say:

The allegations about Spacey . . . could be embarrassing for the historic London theatre.

(2) The two underlined uses of ‘had’ are incorrect. This is the pluperfect tense, which refers to a past event before a more recent past event. For example, ‘Before he climbed Everest he had been to the moon.’ If you find yourself using the pluperfect, do consider if it is necessary, because it often isn’t. In these cases the past tense is correct, ie ‘last year Spacey received . . .’ and ‘in which he starred . . . ‘

(3) ‘disassociate’ is a longer and clumsier way of saying ‘dissociate’. If a word has two forms, it is good practice to use the shorter.

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