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’.



Daily Express, January 5, 2018

Two errors conveniently packaged in one word. An antenna can be an insect’s feeler, when the plural is antennae, or part of a radio receiver, when the plural is antennas. Here this is a metaphor for a radio receiver, but the writer has chosen the insect one, and mixed up singular and plural into the bargain. It should be ‘a uniquely well-tuned political antenna’; I shouldn’t think you need more than one for political purposes.


Sunday Express, December 21, 2017

Geese are birds. Birds lay eggs. Eggs hatch. Birds are ‘hatched’, not ‘born’.

It looks amateur to have ‘seen’ and ‘saw’ in the same sentence.  I don’t like the construction anyway. ‘Hit with deep snow’ is odd. This would be one way to do it:

The weather round the country has been extremely mixed over the last few days. Goslings hatched in mild temperatures in Rotherhithe, east London, while families in Yorkshire and other counties went sledging in deep snow.



The Times, January 2, 2017

‘May’ and ‘might’ are often confused but in this context the difference is reasonably simple. ‘May’ is for an event which has had a definite outcome, but it is not yet known. For example, ‘the Greens may have won the General Election, but we won’t know until the votes are counted’. ‘Might’ is for an outcome which is known, but which could have been different. For example, ‘England might have won the Ashes if they had scored more runs.’ Here the outcome is known (a lot of cars were destroyed) but with sprinklers some would probably have been undamaged.  Therefore this should read:

Sprinklers might have stopped a fire wrecking  . . .

If in doubt, ‘could’ is usually a suitable alternative.


Sun on Sunday, December 31, 2017

This is sheer ignorance. ‘Her’ is either a possessive, as in ‘Margaret wrote to her friend’, or an object, as in ‘I saw her in the distance’. The pronoun needed here is ‘she’, used for someone already mentioned. Assuming that one person handled the story and one person read a proof, there are at least two people working on a national Sunday paper who do not know this most basic piece of grammar.