The Times, December 14, 2017

This is one of three words which sound the same, but it’s the wrong one. ‘Palate’ is the roof of the mouth or personal sense of taste; a ‘pallet’ is what goods are stacked on, and a ‘palette’ is what an artist uses, or metaphorically a range of flavours or sensations, which is the one wanted here.



Wallis: The Queen That Never Was

Channel 5, November 29, 2017

Conjoined twins that shared a liver, intestine AND bladder have been successfully separated after a marathon surgery lasting 12 hours and involving 20 doctors

Mail Online, December 14, 2017

Suddenly I am seeing ‘that’ used everywhere instead of ‘who’. In this context, ‘that’ is a relative pronoun introducing a defining clause, such as ‘the tree that has been here for 400 years’. However when you are talking about people, the word you want is ‘who’. If you are talking about animals, it is ‘which’. In fact for all non-human references I think ‘which’ is more elegant than ‘that’, so: ‘the tree which has been here for 400 years’.


I am not alone!

These two letters appeared in the i newspaper on December 13, 2017

I have been going on about this horrible expression for ages but I fear it is on the increase. This is my entry in the ‘Banned’ section of Style Matters:

fall pregnant: Absolutely not. This is a downmarket expression with sexist connotations of ‘fallen woman’. A woman may become pregnant, find she is expecting, or conceive.

Another entry from Style Matters:

pre: This means in advance, so pre-planned, pre-recorded, pre-ordered and pre-prepared are tautological.

Sadly, I’m sure it won’t be long before we see ‘fell pregnant’ and ‘pre-whatever’ again in the i newspaper and every other publication.


The Times, December 13, 2017

(69 words) The line about p-p-p-picking up a p-p-p-penguin is from a 1970s advert, and it has been done to death in the 40-odd years since. I hoped I might have seen the last of it, but some fool has exhumed it. It wasn’t funny even at the time, and what relevance does it have now?

In such a short story, it is a waste of precious words to try a smart intro, even if it is smart, which this one isn’t. How about a comparison with today’s biggest penguin, the emperor, to put it in perspective? And if you are going to explain part of the Latin name, you have to explain all of it.

This is how I would do it:

Man-size penguin

The fossil remains of a giant penguin have been found in New Zealand. The bird, which lived 60million years ago, was 5ft 10in tall and weighed nearly 16st. By comparison, today’s largest penguin, the emperor, is 4ft and up to about 7st. Alan Tennyson, the scientist whose team made the discovery in Otago, has named it Kumimanu (‘monster bird’ in Maori) biceae (after his mother Bice). (68 words)



Daily Express, December 11, 2017

(88 words) The construction used in the intro, known as a ‘dangling’ or ‘hanging’ participle, means that the first clause describes the first object or person referred to thereafter. So we have the new portrait standing in the Grand Corridor (note: caps on both words) at Windsor, not the Duke. My favourite example of getting this wrong was on BBC radio in September 2009: ‘Fifty years after his suicide, Prime Minister Gordon Brown has apologised to computer pioneer Alan Turing.’

The same error occurs in the second paragraph. Philip has not been painted, his portrait has. A better way of putting it would be:

In the picture by Australian Ralph Heimans, Philip is wearing . . .

This adds the fact that Heimans is Australian. I would think it is fairly obvious that he is an artist.

Given that the prince has retired because of his age, it would be good to put in that he is 96.

This would be my attempt:

STANDING in the Great Corridor at Windsor Castle, this is the Duke of Edinburgh in his latest portrait.

He is depicted wearing the blue sash of Denmark’s highest honour, the Order of the Elephant, to mark his close family association with the country.

Australian Ralph Heimans, who also painted the Diamond Jubilee portrait of the Queen, said: ‘I hope it does justice to his unique character.’

The portrait of the 96-year-old duke, who retired from public engagements in August, will go on display in the UK and Denmark next year. (90 words)



I’ve mentioned before that I rarely feature Mail Online because it’s the exception when they get something right, but I couldn’t resist this. You need to know that the man involved is Professor Terence Meaden.

Extracts from: Was Stonehenge constructed as part of a fertility cult?

Mail Online, December 10, 2017

Professor Terance Meade said Stonehenge was built to be a ‘play without words’

Prod Terance said the phenomenon would represent fertility for the builders

Professor Meaden examined nearly 20 stone circle across Britain

Professor Terance Meade of said the Stonehege’s ancient builders create a ‘play without words’

The professor also identified other important dates pick out by the stones

Further sundries carried out at six other circles in County Cork

But Professor Mike Paker-Pearson [his name is Parker Pearson, no hyphen] from University College London is less convinced of the theroy.





i newspaper, December 7, 2017

(44 words) It is not mandatory to use the cliche ‘under the hammer’ in every story involving an auction. It is especially important to avoid it when you produce such a silly image. This applies to all sorts of items such as paintings, cars and Ming vases. There are also a lot of wasted words in this piece which could have been used to give more details about the specs, which in fact were not worn by him, though you don’t need to spell this out.

I would have put:

A pair of Sir Winston Churchill’s tortoiseshell spectacles have been auctioned for £6,000, three times the £2,000 estimate. The round-framed reading glasses in a leather case were made by his opticians C W Dixey & Sons and were sold on Wednesday by Catherine Southon Auctioneers. (45 words)




The Times, December 5, 2017

I don’t believe even 30 seconds of thought went into either the heading or the intro. ‘Gets’ is a word which should never appear in a heading – there is always a better way. I would suggest that ‘Clementine’ is better than the banal ‘Churchill’s wife’. How about:

Clementine steps out of Churchill’s shadow

And as for the intro: If you must use this dreadful ‘he/but’ construction, the ‘he’ refers to Kristin Scott Thomas, who is female. The idea of ‘fighting them on the beaches’ is a cliche – let’s reach for the first thing we can remember from Churchill’s speeches. Still, it goes with the ‘finest hour’ cliche in the heading.

I’d suggest something like this:

Clementine Churchill is to receive some long overdue credit for her wartime role, thanks to the actress playing her in a new film.

Kristin Scott Thomas said that initially the producers of Darkest Hour treated Winston Churchill’s wife as an afterthought, but her contribution was a vital part of his success.

‘I really fought to give her more weight in the film, to give her more sense to the story,’ said Scott Thomas.