i newspaper, August 2, 2017

Nelson, Lancashire, has a population of around 30,000, roughly the same size as Oxford. The person who handled this must not have heard of Nelson, because he or she would have known that it is a town, not a village. In that case you look it up. You cannot rely on the writer to get everything right. That is what subs are for. If you can’t be bothered to check something which you do not know to be correct, you really should be doing something else.


World Championships 2017: Mo Farah defends his 10,000m title in London

BBC Sport Website, August 4, 2017

This is the heading on a story about Mo Farah winning his race. ‘Defend’ means ‘protect’, so it says only that he took part in the race. It should say that he ‘retains’ his title or ‘successfully defends’ it.


i newspaper, August 4, 2017

You really need more geography than ‘Netherlands’. So what were the lamp posts (note: two words, not hyphenated) doing on his car? And the word ‘only’ is missing before ‘offences’. As it stands, this short is not worth using.


Daily Express, August 2, 2017

This purports to be a quote from J B Morton, the legendary writer of the Express’s Beachcomber column for 50 years. I would be amazed if he was ignorant enough to put ‘Bosch’, which is the name of a German electrical goods firm and a 16th century Dutch artist, and a Second World War nickname for the Germans, instead of ‘Bosh’, meaning rubbish.


i newspaper bumper edition

All these cuttings are from the paper dated August 3, 2017

‘Forward advance’ is a tautology, which means saying the same thing in different words. The definition of advance is to move forward. This writer liked it enough to use it twice.

The i prides itself on not making a fuss about royalty, but it should still get titles right. The former Sophie Rhys-Jones is the wife of the Earl of Wessex and as such she is a countess. A duchess is the wife of a duke, for example the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Duke is a senior rank to earl.

Instead of the stuff about the cloth manufacturers of old, it would be more interesting to say that the building has been turned into shops, offices and cafes, and that the restoration took three years. You do not need the word ‘first’ before ‘opened’, because ‘opened’ means ‘first used’.


This is an example of a misused comma. It makes the word ‘who’ relate to the subject in the first part of the sentence, ie the son of the earl. Without the comma, the ‘who’ relates to the last-mentioned person, ie the earl. You should also lose the second comma. In the last paragraph a couple of words seem to be missing. Who was he ordered to pay? And should it be a ‘lump sum’?

How many medium, large or giant molecules are there? A molecule by definition is tiny.



Daily Express, August 1, 2017

It’s a common mistake to treat a ‘plural’ name like a plural noun in terms of apostrophes. Even though ‘Charles’ ends in ‘s’, it is singular and takes an apostrophe and another ‘s’, making Charles’s. In the same way it would be ‘Mr Jones’s house’.


i newspaper, August 1, 2017

(45 words) This terrible heading, with the awful ‘get to’ and a failed attempt to be clever, shows complete lack of understanding of the story. The point is that the bears will no longer be protected, and could be hunted. How is this ‘more freedom’?

The story is bad too.  Starting with ‘The US government’ is one of the sure-fire ways to make readers move straight to another story. And what does it matter which set of officials deals with the bears? This is how I would do it:

Grizzlies in the
hunters’ sights

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region of the US are losing their protected status because numbers have climbed to 700 from fewer than 150 in 1973, and a hunting season will probably be introduced. Conservation groups are planning to appeal against the government ruling. (44 words)




The Times, August 1, 2017

This is from the Times diary column, TMS, which is currently using a different obscure word every day. So funny! Presumably this jolly jape left no time to check the spelling of Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.


i newspaper, July 26, 2017

(46 words) While this is not the worst short I have ever seen, it is sloppy and full of superfluous words. Once it is established that the story is about penguins, you do not need to keep repeating the word. ‘After’ is not necessary. Plainly the killings happened after the fox got in, not before. Why do you need the word ‘water’? Obviously the staff who are quoted work at the park, not the nearby greengrocer’s.  Cutting these words leaves room for extra information. Young penguins are called ‘chicks’, not ‘infants’.

This is how I would do it:

Eight Humboldt penguins were killed by a fox which got into their enclosure at Chessington World of Adventures in Surrey. Staff said the victims were five adults and three chicks from a group of 28. A ninth was injured but has recovered since the attack in June. (47 words)

The Telegraph website fared no better on July 25.

Here are some extracts:

[The penguins were] killed by a fox which snuck into the Penguin Bay under the noses of security cameras.

‘Snuck’ is an ugly Americanism. In Britain we say ‘sneaked’. ‘Under the noses of security cameras’ is an odd expression. Perhaps it means ‘eyes’. However, it would be better to rewrite the sentence to include information from further down the story: The enclosure was covered by security cameras which staff admitted were not being monitored when the fox sneaked in.

Employees at the world famous park were allegedly warned not to talk about the penguin massacre.

If it is famous, you don’t need to say so. If it is not famous, the description is inaccurate.

“ . . . it’s not something our zoo license says we have to do,” she continued.

‘License’ is the verb. The spelling required here for the noun is ‘licence’. (Note: In the US the spelling for both verb and noun is ‘license’.)

She added that  . . . an investigation was underway to identify how the fox managed to break in.

‘Under way’ is a nasty piece of newspaperspeak, but if you must use it, at least make it two words. It would be better to say ‘She added that  . . . staff were trying to discover how the fox broke in’, though if they haven’t found out in a month they probably aren’t going to, so it may be better to leave it out.




The Times, July 28, 2017

This kind of thing does make me cross. Some numbskull sees the word ‘shark’ (or ‘spider’ or ‘snake’) and thinks, ‘Ooh, scary!’ The fact is that almost all sharks, including this species, will not attack humans unless provoked. Many consider sharks (and spiders and snakes) to be interesting and beautiful. It is thoughtless to indulge in this kneejerk reaction, childish to use the word ‘scary’, and a cliche to mention Jaws. Incidentally, so what if the photographer comes from Cincinnati (which is several hundred miles from the sea)? The question is, where was the shark? Grrr.