The Times, April 30, 2020

This could have been set as a test paper for aspiring subs. In this case, the candidate failed miserably.

First, it is not clear how many chicks have hatched. The intro says two, but the rest of the copy suggests only one at time of writing. The intro also says ‘this week’ when the first chick is said to have hatched yesterday. You should never waste a yesterday line – ‘this week’ sounds like a local paper.

Second, of course they were unaware that they were being watched – they are birds. This kind of statement of the obvious is juvenile and tiresome.

In the third par, we have ‘hatch’ twice and ‘hatching’ once. One is enough. The second sentence could have been: ‘The whole process takes about 72 hours from pipping, when the shell is breached by the chick within.’

Par 4: ‘the female was laying on the eggs’. This is badly wrong. ‘Laying’ is a present tense form of ‘to lay’, which is a transitive verb, meaning that it is accompanied by an object. Examples would be ‘She is laying the table’ or ‘the bird is laying eggs’. Presumably the word was meant to be ‘lying on the eggs’, a present tense form of the word ‘to lie’. But birds don’t ‘lie’ on their eggs, they ‘sit’ on them.

Par 5: ‘Raise’ means to lift, to gain height, so ‘up’ is redundant.

In the third leg, if you are telling the story of the development of the chick, do it chronologically. Don’t start with it flying, then go back to being newly hatched. I have shown how the pars should be re-arranged.

‘Weigh in’: Jockeys weigh in after a race, and this is the only use for the expression. Babies or chicks weigh a certain amount.

Last par but one: We know the birds have a chick so by definition they are ‘successful’. Another redundant word.

Last par: We have established quite thoroughly that the story is about peregrines, so you don’t need two more repetitions of the name.




This is the weekly column which deals with readers’ criticisms of perceived inaccuracies in the Times. Oddly enough, the readers are often in the wrong. You would expect such an oracle to have a perfect grasp of English.

The Times, April 25, 2020 (I managed to cross out ‘added’ by accident)

‘Bonus’ means added or extra. ‘Added bonus’ is therefore a tautology, or a way of saying the same thing twice, as in ‘razed to the ground’.


i newspaper, April 24, 2020

I wonder how many times a day the word ‘people’ is used? Are we likely to be talking about aliens? Fish? Giraffes? It is obvious that the homes belong to people so you don’t need to say it. You should weigh every word to see if it earns its place.