The Times, January 18, 2017

You might say ‘sentenced to life’ in conversation but it is not acceptable in a news report. It must be ‘life imprisonment’ or ‘given a life sentence’. I would say ‘hid her body’ rather than ‘stashed’, which is a slang word usually referring to the storage of illegal drugs or contraband.


The Times, January 18, 2017

ECB stands for ‘England and Wales Cricket Board’, so obviously you don’t put ‘ECB board’. In a sports page (as this is) you don’t need to spell out ECB but it would be better to do so in the first reference on a news page. Thereafter it is either ‘the ECB’ or ‘the board’.


i newspaper, January 16, 2017

‘Passed away’ is a euphemism which should be used only as a last resort. In this case there is no need for it. You could end the intro at ‘band’, but you would still have a repetition of ‘singer’. It seems unlikely that a recording session would be held in a hotel. Since it is mentioned in the second par that she is Irish, you don’t need it in the intro, which could read as follows:

The Cranberries singer Dolores O’Riordan has died at the age of 46. She was in London for a recording session with her new band and was found in her hotel room.


A plane cherished by its pilots and adored by the public: How the Spitfire became a symbol of national defiance and turned what could of been Britain’s darkest hour into its finest 

Mail Online, January 16, 2017

‘Could of’ and ‘would of’ are among the clearest signs of ignorance.  This is all the worse because the intro of the story has the correct ‘could have’:

A revolutionary aircraft that transformed the capability of the RAF, the Spitfire rightly became a symbol of national defiance, turning what could have been Britain’s darkest hour into our finest.       

This suggests to me either that someone is incapable of copying the phrase ‘could have’ or thought he or she knew better. Either way it’s pathetic.


The Times, January 13, 2017

From Style Matters, A-Z

defuse/diffuse: To defuse means to disable an explosive device by removing the fuse or reduce tension in a confrontation; to diffuse (verb) means to dilute or scatter, as in ‘the sunlight was diffused through the trees’, or it can be used an adjective as in ‘the diffused sunlight’. Watch out for this, as diffuse is often wrongly used in copy when defuse is meant.


The Times, January 10, 2017

Here is a brand new story about an inquest which happened yesterday, with details which have not been reported before, yet inexplicably the Times has chosen to start with three pars of history which everyone must have seen a thousand times in the 40-odd years since Lord Lucan disappeared. I can’t think of a single reason to bury a new story in the fourth par, apart from a shocking lack of professionalism.

The i newspaper showed how it should be done:

i newspaper, January 10, 2017



Daily Express, January 8, 2017, Page 1

Daily Express, January 8, 2017, Page 3

If you are cross-referring from one page to another, you really have to stick to the same idea. This looks as if the left hand didn’t know what the right was doing.


The Times, January 8, 2018

How anyone can send this through without giving the temperature is beyond me. It was 47C or 116F! This was mentioned halfway through a cricket report on the back page but you cannot possibly assume that readers who are tennis fans will have read that first. I am beginning to wonder if human beings are employed on the Times at all.

The same column of shorts contained these two:

The Times, January 8, 2018

You can’t have the same contrived intro construction on two stories in a row. It looks amateurish.

In the first, there is also reference to an unused picture – always poor. A better version would be:

Serena Williams, who has delayed her comeback after having her first baby four months ago, has returned to practice and was spotted at the Bay Club in San Francisco on Saturday evening. She  decided a couple of weeks ago not to defend her Australian Open title, but her coach Patrick Mouratoglou says she will return to the tour in March.

In the second, if you give one player’s ranking, you really should give the other’s. This is how I would do it:

Heather Watson won the Hobart International title in 2015 but has since slipped down the world rankings to 75 and this year had to come through qualifying to reach the main draw. In the first round she defeated world 97 Nao Hibino of Japan 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. Watson’s ranking is high enough to guarantee her direct entry to the Australian Open.



i newspaper, January 6, 2018

I picked out this piece because of the inane phrase ‘spiky marine animals’ in the intro. This is an example of ‘inelegant variation’, as Keith Waterhouse called it: a doomed effort to avoid repeating a word. Some favourites are in The Compleat Sub-Editor section of Style Matters. In this case, the effort would have been avoided by rephrasing the second part of the sentence to read ‘prompting the Australian government to begin a culling programme’.

Then I noticed the last paragraph. Is it possible that anyone on the i newspaper believes that ‘herbivorous’ means ‘meat-eating’? As I thought everyone knows, herbivores eat only plant matter. The word for meat-eating is ‘carnivorous’. Honestly, I am shocked at the ignorance. But I have noticed before that some people take a weird perverse pride in being ignorant of scientific and nature matters, as if it is somehow nerdy to know about these things. What a sad attitude.

PS: The starfish are described as ‘munching’ the corals. I imagine this is meant to be a jokey word, though I don’t see what is amusing about the topic. In any case, as the second par says, the starfish don’t have teeth but exude an enzyme which dissolves the coral. So the use of the word is not only silly but inaccurate. ‘Gobbling’ in the heading is not much better. I would suggest ‘destroying’.