You have a good story about Sir David Attenborough doing a new nature series at the age of 90. Do you:

Times, February 20, 2017

(a) Try to dress it up with a baffling intro and throw in some anthropomorphism, or . . .

i newspaper, February 20, 2017

(b) do a straight intro which readers will understand at once and make them want to find out more?

It’s no contest, is it?



i newspaper, February 18, 2017

Birds do not give birth. They lay eggs, which hatch. It would be better to say ‘Wisdom, the world’s oldest known seabird, has become a mother again in her seventh decade.’ I would lose the line about being the oldest breeding bird in the wild to avoid repetition. Anyway, how can this be stated as fact? In the third par from the end, I would say ‘albatrosses’ rather than ‘albatross’. And in the last par, is it really necessary to point out that an albatross is large?

PS The caption curse strikes again:


The Times, February 16, 2017

I don’t think there is any shame in not knowing when the Eurovision Song Contest is due to be held. From this piece it could be next week or December, and it makes a difference to how much time there is left to get it organised, and therefore the chances of cancellation. (Actually I have looked it up, and it’s May, but readers should not have to do this.) It would also be useful to know how many, if any, of the committee are left for the same reason.




The Times, February 14, 2017

First, an irritating non sequitur. What on earth has being ‘a star in the ballad world’ got to do with his height? Second, what is the relevance of John Bercow to a pop singer? I suspect none at all. Third, one of those annoying questions left unanswered – what height is Mr Bercow? Are we all supposed to know? How else can we calculate what height Mr Blunt is? A 30-second glance at the internet reveals that the Speaker (which would also have been a useful reference, if you needed to mention Mr Bercow at all) is around 5ft 6in while the singer is about 5ft 7in.



Daily Express, February 11, 2017

A lovely heading – what a shame to take the shine off it with three dots (ellipses) crammed in. The page or type could easily have been adjusted to fill out the line. The ellipses in the last paragraph and the caption also look wrong because there should be a full space at the start and end, and half spaces between the dots, like this . . . except that I don’t know how to do half spaces on this computer, so these are all full spaces.

In the caption I would have used a colon rather than ellipses, and it should be ‘under water’ not ‘underwater’, which is an adjective as correctly used in the fourth paragraph.



The Times, February 10, 2017

A best-loved passenger train? Is there a chart listing trains in order of the affection in which they are held? Has anyone ever been heard to say ‘I really love the InterCity 125 – I would not travel on anything else’? This is sheer nonsense.




Times, February 9, 2017

This is a prime example of an attempt at a clever intro which instead is a ridiculous non sequitur. What on earth has the longevity of the force got to do with anything? It is hopeless, and even includes a repetition of ‘police force’. So often I see this sort of contrived intro which does not work. It is infinitely better to do it straight, as the i newspaper did on the same day:

This is clear and includes more detail. We learn, for example, that there are eight constables. The Times does not give a number, though there is a picture showing 11 officers. Unlike the Times, the i also spells out that anyone arrested by the cathedral police will still be dealt with by the regular North Yorkshire force. The point of all this is: forget trying to be smart, just tell the story.

PS: I take issue with the use of the word ‘specialist’ in both versions to describe the constables’ training. Surely we can take it as read that they are not being trained as doctors or plumbers?