Sunday Times, January 19, 2020

Only mid-January and already a cracking entry for the worst intro of the year. Precisely where may one find the controversy rankings of the world’s coal? It must be a fascinating list.

In any case the ‘It/and’ format is beyond tired. Just tell it straight by chopping off the first sentence. You can lose ‘new’ – the idea is incorporated in ‘revealed’.

Furthermore, I don’t think anyone claiming to be an impartial reporter (as news reporters should be, conveying facts, not opinions) should write that ‘coal is a key factor in climate change, which has exacerbated [Australia’s] drought and bushfires’. Whatever your personal beliefs, you need to qualify any contentious statement, even if only by saying ‘coal is said to be . . .’

It is pretty lame, as in the third par, to say that the coal ‘may have one of the worst carbon footprints . . .’ If you don’t know, don’t guess. It makes you look ignorant.

Otherwise, good job.



i newspaper, January 17, 2020

Au revoir means ‘Until I see you again’ or ‘See you soon’.  The French word for a permanent farewell, as needed here, is ‘Adieu’. This is a     rotten headline in another way too, because it is simply a short form of the intro. Talking of the intro, you rarely need ‘ever’. ‘Last day’ is          sufficient.

A better headline might be:

Goodbye to all that: Euro
MPs’ historic Brexit day

which also has the advantage of not having the killer words ‘European Parliament’ in it.

One thing that annoys me about the i newspaper is its style of having a one-word tag above the headline. At least get it right – this story is about Strasbourg, not Brussels.





The Times, January 10, 2020, page 8

The Times, January 10, 2020, page 10

This is more of an organisational point than subbing. When you have multiple stories on the same topic, as with the ‘abdication’ of Harry and Meghan, it is essential to deploy someone to make sure that figures are  consistent. In the first cutting here, Prince Harry is estimated to be worth £10million plus interest. In the second, based on the same two legacies, the figure is £30million. An overseer would be able to rule on which figure should be the one used throughout.


The Times, December 30, 2019

This is an example of the lack of curiosity that I feel infects today’s subs. As a reader, I see the words: ‘The Prince of Wales was the hardest-working, attending 521 functions. This was more than his sister, the Princess Royal, who is historically the most industrious’ and I think: ‘Hmm, that’s interesting, I wonder how many more?’ I have to wait for two more paragraphs and into the second leg before I am told that Anne carried out 506 engagements. I then have to subtract 506 from 521 to come up with the answer: 15. I find this irritating.

The sub should always imagine being the reader and predict what the reader is going to want to know next. The sub should also never make the reader do mental arithmetic. In this case, the second paragraph should have read: ‘The Prince of Wales was the hardest-working, attending 521 functions. This was 15 more than his sister, the Princess Royal, who is historically the most industrious. Her 2019 total was 506.’

I question whether 15 engagements in a tally of more than 500 constitutes an ‘eclipse’. Granted, eclipses can be partial, but the average reader will envisage a total eclipse, which is far from what the story says. A better word would be ‘replaces’.




The Times, December 26, 2019

The word ‘local’ is nearly always superfluous, eg ‘He took the dog to a local vet’ (not a vet 200 miles away). This is a particularly egregious example. Local to what? Delete it. Incidentally, I would say ‘passers-by’ with a hyphen.


i newspaper, December 11, 2019

This is clumsy. You should not make the reader wait so long for the surprise: that he is nearly 80. Having said that he is ’80 tomorrow’, you really do not need to say that he is 79 today.

Improving it is simple.

First sentence: Turning 80 tomorrow, Eric Marshall still climbs . . . light display.

Second sentence:  He spends all of November . . .






Flustered Phillip Schofield blames ‘too much’ booze as he messes up This Morning segment after coiffing champagne with Holly Willoughby amid feud rumours

Mail Online, December 11, 2019

Extraordinary. Phillip correctly spelled with two ls (not often achieved) yet ‘coiffing’ instead of ‘quaffing’.

1. ‘Coiffing’ is to do with hairdressing.

2. ‘Quaffing’ is an old-fashioned word on the lines of toff, cad and flame-haired as I mentioned in my previous post.





Sunday Times, December 8, 2019

‘Flame-haired’ is as old-fashioned as toff, cad and boffin. In any case, why refer to her hair colour? Would you say a man is red-haired? Is it surprising that a mathematician should have red hair? Unless the point of the story is her hair colour, don’t mention it.


The Times, November 29, 2019

1. The expression is ‘Ooh la la’, not ‘Oh’.

2. There are no accents on ‘la’. (Some authorities say there are but they are in a tiny minority.)

3. If you can’t think of anything better than this frightful cliché, you should not be in the business.