Sunday Times, December 31, 2017

Honestly, anyone who thinks this is an acceptable heading is in the wrong job. It’s not clever, it’s silly and juvenile.

If you want a smart heading, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this:

Cattle do nicely

I would go for something sweeter, such as

For the love of cows



i newspaper, December 30, 2017

(This wouldn’t quite fit in my scanner, but you get the idea).

I cannot understand what kind of disturbed mind would choose to list the interviewees in any order but left to right, which has been the standard  way since the dawn of time, and is what readers expect. There is no logic to this.


The Times, December 30, 2017

This is a common error. To infer is to deduce from the evidence, as in ‘he inferred from the state of the body that the victim had been dead for weeks’. The word wanted here is ‘imply’, which means to hint or suggest.


i newspaper, December 27, 2017

(100 words) Here is an interesting story with not much space to tell it in. However the person who handled it has seen fit to repeat ‘remote island’, ‘off the west coast of’, ‘wildlife’, ‘rangers’ and ‘birds’. That doesn’t leave much room for facts. Oh, and it’s not remote: as far as I can see it is about half a mile from the mainland.

This is how I would do it:

A couple have landed their dream job looking after 100,000 birds on a Scottish island.

Craig Nisbet, 38, and Francesca Clair, 35, will live on Handa, off the west coast of Sutherland, from March to September, sharing a £14,500 salary.

Handa is home to one of Europe’s biggest colonies of guillemots, as well as red grouse, puffin, Arctic skua, Arctic tern and eider duck, and is visited by around 7,000 tourists a year.

The couple, both experienced wildlife rangers, will have free accommodation in a bothy. They will be joined by four long-term and 50 weekly volunteers over the season. (100 words)




i newspaper, December 27, 2017

This does not ‘beg’ the question, it ‘raises’ the question. Begging the question is a very specific usage which is rarely needed. Also known as a circular argument, it involves making a firm conclusion on the basis of an arguable proposition. For example: ‘Why did God make parasitic worms?’ This begs (or avoids) the question of whether God exists. You can find out infinitely more about this at


The same piece in the i newspaper featured this caption:

This is the first time I have seen viral used in a comparative way, and I don’t like it. This suggests that you can have ‘mildly viral’ or ‘almost viral’ or ‘very viral indeed’. I would say that ‘viral’ cannot be qualified – it is either viral or it is not. No doubt everyone will soon be using it like this, though.



i newspaper, December 23, 2017

Sometimes I wonder if there are any sentient beings involved in the media at all. Surely if you saw a name like ‘Silk Milk Drive’ you would think, Hmm, that looks a bit odd, I wonder if should be ‘Silk Mill’? Which of course it is. The i was not the only offender. This error, which I assume came from agency copy sent to every news outlet, went into the Sun, the Guardian, Mail Online, Metro and the Yorkshire Post – which is based in Leeds! (It was later corrected on its website). Presumably there are still some humans working at the Daily Star, ITV Online, BBC Online and the Mirror, which spotted the mistake.