i newspaper, November 16, 2022

Times, November 16, 2022

I am really fed up with the cliché ‘going under the hammer’ in every story about an auction. Here are two on one day. Apart from anything else, even though it is only a figure of speech, it creates a visual impression, and neither cake nor jewellery come out of it well. Nor do paintings, porcelain, classic cars or any of the myriad items that are sold by auction.

In any case, it is not necessary to use the expression. In the first story you could say ‘is to be auctioned’ in the first reference and ‘sold’ in the second. In the second story you could say ‘is to be auctioned next month’. In both cases I would add the years of the weddings (2005 and 2011) to emphasise that these are rather ancient pieces of cake.



Spectator, November 5, 2022

This is a good example of a sub missing a chance to save the writer from an error. She has confused ‘can’t hold a candle to’, meaning ‘not nearly as good as’, with ‘I don’t carry a torch for’, meaning to be in love with someone, usually unrequitedly. Obviously the sub didn’t know what the expression ‘hold a candle to’ means, so he or she should have looked it up. This is the whole point of subbing – all writers make mistakes and we should stop them getting into print. All subs make mistakes too, but that is a different story.


i newspaper, November 3, 2022

If you have a picture with the King in it, you really do not need to point out that the other person is on the left. In my opinion this is a pretty lousy picture anyway and not worth using since you can’t see Bhaskar’s face.


i newspaper, November 3, 2022

This is one of the most common errors, and a sure sign of ignorance. A ‘palette’ refers to an artist’s paintboard or to a suite of colours; the word wanted here is ‘palate’ which is either the roof of the mouth or one’s flavour preferences. There is also ‘pallet’, meaning a wooden base for heavy goods in transit such as building materials, and that often gets a misplaced outing too.


‘It is just the latest piece in a growing body of evidence that disputes the official theory – pedaled by the WHO and some senior scientists – that the virus jumped from animals into humans . . .’

Mail Online, October 31, 2022

Mail Online, the gift to the Subbing Clinic that keeps on giving.  Two words that sound the same but have different meanings are peddle (to sell, often illegal goods) and pedal (to turn the pedals on a bicycle). The word needed here is ‘peddle’. However Mail Online, in its own brilliant way, has  compounded the error of using the wrong word by mis-spelling it. ‘Pedaled’ is the American spelling; in Britain the spelling is ‘pedalled’.



The Times, October 11, 2022

This man is in a class of his own in the Stupidest Intro of the Year contest. It’s as if he is roughly translating from Albanian. This is gibberish – the word ‘that’ must refer to the word or phrase it follows, so  we have trees coming out of trees. I would advise him to go to English classes if I were not sure he thinks he is God’s gift.


The Times, March 12, 2022

This is a good example of the misuse of a comma which has changed the meaning of the sentence and made it incorrect. The first World Cup was in 1930 but the comma makes it look as if it was in 1970.

This is part of my Style Matters entry:

If you are describing one individual, you would need commas in a sentence such as ‘The Queen, who visited Canterbury yesterday, was greeted by . . .’ [That would be the right format if you were talking about the first World Cup in 1930, ie one event.] However if you are describing one of several individuals, you should not use commas, eg ‘the sub-editor who changed that copy is a genius’. [This is the format you want in this example, where you are picking out one event from several.]


Also from Style Matters: Commas are occasionally needed to make a meaning clear, as in ‘I would like to thank my parents, the Queen, and Prince Philip’. If you miss out a comma, you get ‘I would like to thank my parents, the Queen and Prince Philip’, which is not quite the same thing. Another example given when an American academic suggested that the comma was redundant was ‘Mrs Smith gets pleasure from eating her family and pets.’



i newspaper, February 28, 2022

‘Lake’ is redundant because that is what ‘mere’ means. You just say ‘Windermere’. Other bodies of water in the Lake District are called ‘waters’ eg Coniston Water. The only lake in the Lake District is Bassenthwaite Lake.