i newspaper, December 23, 2017

Can anyone explain this thought process? ‘Here is a story concerning Princess Michael and a brooch. I will choose to illustrate it with a picture in which the brooch is covered by a seatbelt, not one of the many in which it is clearly visible.’

Here is an example:

The Times, December 23, 2017

This piece also contains an example of what can happen when paragraphs are run on to avoid a short line at the top of a leg (called a ‘widow’ in my day). Paragraphs denote that the content is related, and in this case it looks as if the topics of slavery and Miss Markle belong together. This is unfortunate. The appearance of the page should never take precedence over the words. Here, it would been a simple matter to add extra spaces to fill out the top line of the second leg and still start a paragraph with the next sentence.



i newspaper, December 22, 2017

(42 words) So often short pieces like this are shovelled through without any thought, yet with only a few minutes’ work they can be little gems. I guarantee that the Anniversaries feature has more readers than much of the heavy stuff.

There are several problems with these 42 words. If an animal (or person) is ‘born’, it is by definition a ‘baby’.  It does not arrive with a name. The gorilla did not ‘become’ the first born in captivity, it ‘was’ the first. It is repetitive to use ‘born’ twice and ‘gorilla’ three times. The tense switches awkwardly from present to past. ‘Brought’ implies coming towards the writer, whereas ‘taken’ is neutral. I think this is better, since we are not in the US. And how about the fact that she died only this year, aged 60? Surely that’s worth a mention! NB In this case I think it is ok to talk about the animal as ‘she’, rather than ‘it’.

This is how I would do it:

Colo, the first gorilla born in captivity, made her entrance at Columbus Zoo in Ohio. Her parents were western lowland gorillas captured in French Cameroon and taken to the US in 1951. Colo died at the zoo in January this year aged 60. (43 words)




The Times, December 19, 2017

To prise means to wrench something from someone’s grasp with difficulty. This seems an odd word to describe a one-sided three-nil slaughter.

‘Mike Atherton’s Ashes verdict as Australia steamroller England’ might be nearer the mark.




The Times, December 20, 2017

‘Mistake’ and ‘accident’ are not synonyms.  A mistake implies lack of judgment or getting it wrong. An accident is something that happens by chance or without apparent cause. It was right to avoid the repetition of  ‘accident’ in the heading and the intro, but the alternative word in the heading should have been ‘chance’.


The Times, December 16, 2017

This is a classic tautology, which means saying the same thing in two ways or adding an unnecessary qualifier, such as ‘rise up’ and ‘personally I think’.  A ‘gift’ is by definition something ‘given’. The clue is in the similarity of the words. Not content with having this basic error in the heading, the Times repeated it in the intro and display quote.


The top 50 places for quality of life in the UK revealed – but does your area feature?

mirror.co.uk, December 16, 2017

In this context, ‘but’ is a conjunction (a joining word) which introduces a phrase or clause contrasting with what has gone before. An example would be ‘most of the children were boys, but a few were girls’. I am increasingly seeing ‘but’ used in this meaningless way.  You don’t need any conjunction. ‘The top 50 places for quality of life in the UK revealed – does your area feature?’ is fine.



Daily Express, December 14, 2017

It’s obvious that the person who handled this story hadn’t the faintest idea what it was about. The point is that Mr Kaci Sullivan has had two children, one while he was a woman and one while he was living as a man. This comes up in the third par but is not spelled out until the fifth.

This is how the Independent told it:

A transgender man has given birth to a healthy baby – five years after having his first child while living as a woman.

30-year-old Kaci Sullivan from Wisconsin, US, is believed to be the first person in the world to give birth living as both a woman and a man.

Sullivan already has one child, five-year-old Grayson, with his ex-husband. Grayson was born while Sullivan was living as a woman before transitioning.

It’s not perfect but it makes sense.

The Express heading is meaningless. The Independent is better:

Transgender man gives birth five years after having first child

but it still doesn’t quite grasp the point. I think it should be something like:

Mother has second child – this time as a man



Daily Express, December 14, 2017

This is a common error. Poor Romeo had only one romance, and that turned out badly. The name you want here is Casanova, meaning a man who has multiple lovers. An alternative is Lothario, but that additionally implies deceitful behaviour.



Mysterious decisions (1)

i newspaper, December 15, 2017

How can you select a story that revolves round a picture, then not use the picture? You can see it on this link:


It’s not the best picture ever, but you either use it with the story or you don’t use the story. Or, I suppose, don’t mention the picture. Anything but the way it is done here.

Mysterious decisions (2)

i newspaper, December 15, 2017

This story was immediately above the snake one. In exactly the same way, it’s useless without the picture, which was in the Times:

The Times, December 15, 2017

This makes it perfectly clear, and it’s the sort of thing that readers might talk about.

I simply cannot understand what goes on in the head of a person who can deliberately decide not to use pictures on obvious picture stories. There are enough stories around to fill holes.



The Times, December 14, 2017

This is one of three words which sound the same, but it’s the wrong one. ‘Palate’ is the roof of the mouth or personal sense of taste; a ‘pallet’ is what goods are stacked on, and a ‘palette’ is what an artist uses, or metaphorically a range of flavours or sensations, which is the one wanted here.