Bad caption day at the Times

September 12, 2018

This is a good example of the unnecessary use of the word ‘local’. It is quite obviously a ‘local’ resident’s handiwork, not that of a resident from 200 miles away.

Animals are ‘born to’ mothers; they are ‘sired by’ fathers.

It is clear that the couple on the left are the Cochrans, but we have one more name and two photographs. Are they both of Mr Rhodes? If so, in which is he looking over his shoulder? If not, which one is Mr Rhodes and who is the other man?

I look forward to the Times correction: ‘We inadvertently confused Mr Tariq Javid with a building.’



i newspaper, September 12, 2018

There cannot be many people on the planet who do not know that the retired tennis player is Billie Jean, not Billy Jean.

There are  two ways this could have happened. One, the writer got it wrong, in which case the sub should have thought ‘Hmm, Billy is a funny way for a woman to spell her name, I’d better check it.’ Or the writer got it right, and the sub changed it. Either way it is pathetically poor.




i newspaper, September 4, 2018 – the start of the p5 lead . . .

. . . and the end

Here is a good way to make a story fit the space – simply chop off the beginning and end and dump the rest in the hole.

I find it incredible, and sad, that a national newspaper which dares to call itself ‘quality’ can allow such a poor standard of workmanship. Every page must be read before it is published.



i newspaper, September 4, 2018

While it is good practice to give the reader information in a caption, you must give him or her credit for a bit of intelligence. You really do not need to point out which boxer is landing the punch.




Drugs, weapons and mobile phones are among the items snuck into jails, says the Observer.

BBC News Online, September 2, 2018

‘Snuck’ is an American way of saying ‘sneaked’ and I find it a very ugly word.  In any case I think it exists only in the active voice, eg ‘the man snuck into the garage’, not the passive voice which is used here. Really, ‘snuck’ should be avoided in every possible circumstance.

This is my entry on active and passive voices from Style Matters:

The active voice is for someone or something doing something. The passive voice is for something being done to someone or something. For example, ‘he shears/sheared the sheep’, but ‘the sheep was shorn’; ‘he mows/mowed the lawn’, but ‘the lawn has been mown’; ‘the torpedo sank the ship’, but ‘the ship was sunk by a torpedo’. It is a common error to say ‘the torpedo sunk the ship’.



Mail on Sunday, August 26, 2018


The quotation on the wall plaque in this Heath cartoon says: We have nothing to fear but fear itself – President Truman

In fact, that phrase wasn’t used by Harry Truman, US president from 1945 to 1953. It was spoken by his predecessor, President Franklin D Roosevelt, in his inauguration speech for his first term in 1933.

 This is the sort of thing that readers love to write in about and that sharp-eyed subs should always be on the look-out for.



‘Moped’ crime

We often hear about ‘moped crime’. However as a correspondent to this blog points out, a moped is about the last thing criminals would use. By definition it has pedals (‘mo-ped’) and usually has a capacity of 50cc. This means it travels at about the speed of a bicycle, or even less with two people on board. This Wikipedia entry has a picture and all the details:


The vehicle typically used in ‘moped crime’ is a scooter, which has a bigger and more powerful engine, and looks quite different.

It does not help that the police insist on using the term ‘moped crime’ but there is nothing to stop you calling it ‘scooter crime’ or ‘ride-by crime’.





Following his jailed last year, police how now released secret recordings 

Mail Online, August 20, 2018

ALEX BRUMMER: Greece is still being betrayed by the EU as thousands of cuts have forced the idyllic holiday detestation into a tragic state

Mail Online, August 21, 2018

No comment.


i newspaper, August 17, 2018

Another requirement of a headline is that it is in intelligible English, which this is not.

This is the reference in the copy:

So the heading could have been ‘triumphs over principle’. If this was a bit tight, it could have been ‘trumps principle’ or ‘wins over principle’. The one thing you can’t do is arbitrarily dump a word because it doesn’t fit.



Male cyclist in his 60s dies after being hit by lorry on busy London street – as millions of Britain’s are urged to pedal to office on Cycle to Work Day

Mail Online, August 15, 2018

I really try to avoid Mail Online but sometimes . . .

There is a person in the Mail Online office in Kensington who really believes that ‘Briton’ is spelled ‘Britain’ and moreover that if you have a plural noun you put an apostrophe in it.