The Times, July 11, 2017

Never mind the commuter being asleep, the sub who handled this must have been. The intro is completely wrong, because the last par makes it clear that the man is being refunded and so he could not be facing a £1,000 fine. The way to do this is to say he was ‘threatened’ with the fine:

A commuter was threatened with a £1,000 fine after falling asleep on his train home . . .

I would leave the cost of his season ticket to the third paragraph.

This glaring lack of understanding makes me wonder if any human being is reading stories before they go in the paper.


The Times, July 10, 2017

A surprising error in the Times. I would have thought everyone there knows that a graduate is someone who has passed his or her finals and gained a degree. This story is about undergraduates, who have not yet taken their finals. You can’t just drop the ‘under’ bit if it won’t fit. It would have been fine to use ‘students’ in the headline. The intro could have been:

Universities have sanctioned big rises in the number of undergraduates allowed extra time to sit exams as more complain that they are suffering from stress or anxiety.

I have taken out ‘top’ which is such a cliche, and with all respect probably does not cover Sunderland University, and avoided the repetition of students and undergraduates.



i newspaper, July 10, 2017

I’m pretty sure I have never seen Bolton in a national newspaper heading before. There is a good reason why seasoned subs would almost never put a place name (except possibly London) in a headline: you are telling the 99.99 per cent of your readers who have no connection with the place that the story is probably not of much interest to them. Very occasionally it would work, for example if the place name is perceived as amusing or if there is a striking contrast between the image of the place and the event, for example ‘The tramp from Tunbridge Wells’ or ‘The princess who worked in Bethnal Green market’. Bolton, however, is really not a name to conjure with.

Incidentally, why single out the five-year-old girl in the intro? And if you are going to do that, why use the awkward word ‘siblings’ instead of ‘brothers’? You do not need to repeat the girl’s age or the fact that there were two boys in the second par. The father’s efforts should come higher. I would say:

Three children and their mother died when fire swept through a terrace house. Their father is in hospital after trying to save them.

Incidentally, contrary to some authorities, I think it should be ‘terrace house’, not ‘terraced house’. The adjective ‘terraced’ refers to hillside land carved into steps for cultivation.


The Times, July 10, 2017

A common misunderstanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible is that prodigal means someone who returns after a period of absence. The word actually means extravagant or profligate – the Prodigal Son came home only after he had run through his money. I doubt if this applies to Wayne Rooney.


Daily Express, July 7, 2017

  1. According to most authorities, there is no such word as ‘indisciplined’. The noun meaning a state of unruliness is ‘indiscipline’, while the adjective derived from it, as required here, is ‘undisciplined’.
  2. There are mixed opinions about whether split infinitives matter. This one is unnecessary and ugly, so why do it? It would be much better as ‘You then have to learn . . .’


In a closely fought contest, here is the clear winner of Worst Headline Of The Year So Far. The first rule of headline writing is that it should have some relevance to the story. The expression ‘bah humbug’ is related to Dickens’s Scrooge and Christmas. ‘Baaah humbug’ suggests, if anything, miserly sheep. In any case a sheep’s sound is conventionally rendered as ‘baa’.

I would suggest:

Sheep do the dirty
on racing cyclists


Now to the story (47 words). How were the sheep droppings sprayed? Accidentally or deliberately? ‘On to’ is two words, not one. You don’t need ‘people’ unless you feel it necessary to point out that cyclists are human beings, not giraffes. Similarly you don’t need ‘the athletes’. It would be neater to say ‘since then’ rather than ‘following the event’, though you don’t need either. You don’t need to repeat the number 50 or the word ‘race’. This is how I would do it:

More than 50 cyclists have fallen ill after riding through sheep droppings during a road race. They were among 300 taking part in the 245 km (152 miles) three-day TransOsterdalen event in southern Norway last month. The droppings sprayed the victims, who have since suffered fever, stomach pain and diarrhoea. (48 words)


The Times, July 8, 2017

It is poor practice to use the same words in the intro and heading, and exceptionally poor practice to use them in the caption as well. You could rephrase the intro to make it:

Andy Murray subjected fans to the first of his traditional Wimbledon nailbiters last night as he fought through to round four for the tenth year.

The caption could be one of many things, for example:

Andy Murray: Saved five set points against Italy’s Fabio Fognini


The Times, July 7, 2017

Yet another wrong verb. The past tense of ‘spring’ is ‘sprang’. ‘Sprung’ is the past participle and the passive, eg ‘the boat had sprung a leak’ or ‘he was sprung from jail’. See Post 130 for my handy chart of verbs.

‘Purrfect’ was already worn out in the 1950s. It is pathetic to see it now.


The Times, July 6, 2017

The words ‘face to face’ (incidentally I would hyphenate the phrase when it is used as an adjective like this) are superfluous. We can assume they did not sit back to back or behind screens. Every word should be weighed.


i newspaper, July 4, 2017

(69 words) You can’t say someone is a double Paralympic champion without saying what both sports are. The usual speedy check reveals that Cox won gold in cycling and 400m sprinting.

This is how I would do it:

Kadeena Cox, champion at last year’s Rio Paralympics in both sprinting and cycling, is considering concentrating on the latter to break into open competition with her Olympic counterparts. Cox, 26, from Leeds, said: ‘I’ve not cycled for that long and the times I’m doing are up there in terms of able-bodied stuff.’ She was the first Briton in 32 years to win gold in two sports at the same Paralympics. (70 words)

This identifies both sports at the beginning, places the quote next to the intro, to expand it, and moves the history to the end.