Ann Treneman, The Times, August 30, 2019

Most dictionaries define a ‘heifer’ as a cow over one year old which has not had a calf. One or two extend the definition to a cow which has had one calf. I doubt if the dog-walker would have known the exact maternity history of the animal involved, but ‘cow’ would obviously cover every eventuality. I imagine the sub was one of the familiar type these days who feel it is somehow not cool to have knowledge about the natural world.


i newspaper, August 28, 2019

Shall we declare the concept of singular and plural redundant?

In the intro, ‘Toymakers’ is plural (clue: ends with an ‘s’) so should be ‘have chosen’ and ‘their new’. It would be better to make ‘Toymaker’ singular so that it all hangs together.

In the third par, ‘Also featured’ should be followed by ‘are’ not ‘is’ if, as here, you are mentioning more than one person.

By the end of the third par five women have been named, so why in the last par does it say ‘Both dolls’? If only the first two have been put on the market, the third par should say: ‘Others to be featured are . . .’ (which avoids the much over-used ‘also’). If they are already on sale it should say ‘Others who have featured are . . .’



i newspaper, August 26, 2019

Icy? Biarritz? In August?

According to the Global Sea Temperatures website, the water at Biarritz today (August 26) is 21.6 deg C, 70.9 F. It won’t have been much different yesterday. You can be sure that the G7 leaders would not meet somewhere chilly and uncomfortable.

This is a perfect example of a sub passing the copy through without troubling his or her brain. You have to think about every single word.






Dead Tetra Pak billionaire Hans Rausing’s daughter is set to marry her photographer fiance at his £12million home despite being separated from her parents as a child while they spiralled into a world of drugs

Mail Online, August 25, 2019

Terrible heading – but the worst bit is that Rausing is not dead, as the story makes clear:

Today Hans, 57, who is now clean and has remarried, is a philanthropist, giving money from his £6 billion packaging empire fortune to causes including Action On Addiction, which is supported by the Duchess of Cambridge.

You really need to read the story before you write a heading.

I will try to keep an eye on this and see if it is changed.

PS: Yes, it was changed after some hours.



Daily Express, August 10, 2019

Parents adopt a baby, who is then ‘adopted’.  The parents are ‘adoptive’ parents.

PS A reader writes: Just looked it up – turns out the baby was biologically theirs, so no adoption involved at all. Goodness knows what word was meant to go there.


i newspaper, August 5, 2019

The first person to cross the Channel has by definition been successful – how can you do it unsuccessfully?

Apart from that, ‘to successfully cross’ is an ugly and unnecessary split infinitive. I don’t go to the wire any more about split infinitives, but in this case ‘successfully to cross’ would be much pleasanter and classier to read.



i newspaper, August 5, 2019

Unless you tell the reader what the present level is, for example 8.1metres, 15metres, 25metres, he or she cannot know whether the target 8metres is close to being reached or if there is a long way to go.

The water is not lowering itself, so I would say you need the passive voice, i.e. the water ‘has been lowered’.

I would also like an imperial equivalent once in a while.





Unusual item handed in to Merseyside police during firearms surrender

Warrington Guardian

What was it? A wooden leg? A banana? A first edition of the Gutenberg Bible?

No, it was a cannon shell from a Harrier jump-jet. So why didn’t the idiot sub say so in the headline?

‘Unusual item’ indeed. Harrumph.

Contributed by Tom McCarthy