i newspaper, February 25, 2019 (17 words)

Whenever you find yourself thinking of writing the word ‘people’, stop and think again. If the story is about human beings, it is about people and the word is just stating the obvious. There are many alternatives, and in this case there is a  word for people fishing: it is ‘anglers’.

Boscombe is part of Bournemouth. What exactly is ‘southerly air’?

There is a mix of tenses: ‘fish’ (present) and ‘brought’ (past).

A better version of this would be:

Anglers at Boscombe Pier in Bournemouth enjoy the mild temperatures brought by southerly winds from the Canary Islands (18 words)

Adding the word ‘enjoy’ makes the caption a little more than a description of what we can all see. The word ‘brought’ in this case is present passive.


i newspaper, February 16, 2019 (56 words)

Where to start?

1. Do you think ‘Airport authorities in Hong Kong’ is going to make the reader keen to find out more?

2. If the men have been arrested but not convicted you should say they are alleged smugglers (as it does lower down). It is no excuse to say it is in Hong Kong so it doesn’t matter.

3. ‘Suspected’ is a word you would use for a possible criminal, not a rhino horn. The horns are not suspected of anything. You need to say ‘horns believed to be from rhinos’ or just say ‘rhino horns’ – I think you can take a gamble on the horns being pretty distinctive. I certainly can’t think of anything similar that might lead to confusion.

4. Is the weight really important? Can you imagine what 40 kg (88lb) of rhino horn looks like? Is the fact that there were 24 not enough?

5. Is it necessary to say the horns were ‘severed’? Might we otherwise assume the rhinos were still attached?

6. If it is a record haul as stated in the first sentence, it goes without saying that it was the largest seizure.

7. ‘What was’ is just about the ugliest construction in creation and here it is unnecessary.

8. Which is the better headline phrase: ’24 rhino horns’ or ‘$1m rhino horns’?

Looking up the story to find a few more facts I see that the BBC did it almost word for word the same way. So just lifted straight from agency copy.

This is how I would have done it:

$1m rhino horns
seized at airport

Twenty-four rhino horns worth $1million (£780,000) have been seized at Hong Kong airport. Two men travelling from South Africa to Vietnam were arrested on suspicion of smuggling the horns, the largest haul recorded in Hong Kong. Rhino horn is used in Vietnam in traditional medicine and more than 1,000 rhinos a year are killed in South Africa. (57 words)




The Times, February 8, 2019

I have mentioned before that ‘after’ does not mean the same as ‘when’, quoting this genuine example: ‘A woman whose face was almost torn off after she had a riding accident . . .’ This suggests that she fell off her horse, then someone came along and attacked her. The piece above goes further and suggests that the poor girl was knocked off her bicycle and then broke her own bones. She did not do it, it was done to her. Not active but passive. It is so simple if you have a little bit of brain and can speak English: ‘Her jaw and both arms were broken when she was knocked off her bicycle by a van’.