i newspaper, August 25, 2017

(50 words) I haven’t underlined the problem words in this piece as there are so many.

‘Finger-sized’ is an odd way to describe a bird. In Britain we use miles, not kilometres, though you can put the metric equivalent if you want. I wouldn’t bother. You need to spell out the daily rate of flight to make the achievement meaningful, and so that the reader does not have to do mental arithmetic. ‘Researcher say’ is careless, and in any case does it matter who said it? ‘Southern Spain’ appears twice, and you have ‘Sweden’ and ‘Swedish island’. Does this island have a name? Is it near a town whose name we might recognise? I don’t think the weight loss is significant enough to mention, and you certainly should not have ‘weighing’ and ‘weight’ in the same sentence. ‘Weighing in at’ is a cliche. The word ‘before’ is unnecessary. We normally say ‘on’ an island, not ‘in’. The heading should not just be a short version of the first sentence.

This is how I would do it:

Miniature bird’s
marathon flight

A bird only a third the size of a sparrow has completed a migration of about 1,500 miles in ten days – a rate of 150 miles a day. The willow warbler was ringed in May in Murcia, south-east Spain, and recovered on the Swedish island of Nidingen, off Gothenburg. (49 words)



i newspaper, August 23, 2017

(57 words) Ok, so a baby koala is called a ‘joey’. That does not mean you have to use the word five times.

If you say ‘her’ in the first sentence, that’s a clue that it is female, so you don’t need to spell it out in the second.

‘Set to’ is a horrible phrase, and suggests that the event has not yet happened, but the appeal for name suggestions has already gone out.

I think it would be interesting to point out that the animal is not albino and that the pale fur will grow out.

This is how I would do it:

A rare white koala has been born at the Australia Zoo north of Brisbane. The female joey is not albino but has a recessive ‘silvering gene’ thought to be inherited from her mother Tia. When the youngster sheds her baby fur, the normal grey colour will appear. Tourism Australia is asking the public for name suggestions. (56 words)


i newspaper, August 22, 2017

‘People’ again. We do not need to be told that the pictures are of humans. The sun and the moon do not take capitals  – they are generic terms, not proper names. However, if you are going to make a mistake and call it the Sun, at least be consistent.


The Times, August 22, 2017

What on earth is this intro about? How many teddy bears have you seen with black and white faces? There is no relevance to the story at all.

This is how I would start it:

A fashion for keeping Far Eastern wild dogs as pets could endanger native wildlife, conservationists are warning.

Raccoon dogs have been popularised on social media and are being sold to buyers who are attracted by their black and white faces and fluffy appearance. However they are notoriously hard to domesticate and an unknown number have been dumped in the wild.

Incidentally, it is ‘raccoon dog’, not ‘racoon dog’. Not a great effort.


i newspaper, August 21, 2017

You can assume that unless you are told otherwise a newspaper story is going to be about people, not giraffes or parrots.

In the first story above, all four uses of ‘people’ can simply be deleted. To avoid repetition, I would rephrase the second par as follows:

More than 450 deaths have already been confirmed after . . .

The word ‘of’ is missing from the top par of the third leg. This is careless.

The penultimate par repeats the word ‘disease’ which could be avoided as follows:

Sierra Leone suffered a severe cholera outbreak in 2012, when at least 25,000 were infected and hundreds died.

In the second story, again the word ‘people’ is not needed at all. At the bottom of the second leg, ‘the death toll rose to 23 dead’ is obviously repetitive. Starting a story with ‘Indian authorities’ is scarcely an attention-grabber, and it would be surprising if they were not investigating. A better intro would be:

A train crash in which at least 23 were killed was the fourth major accident over the past year in India, where the world’s fourth-biggest rail network is grappling with chronic under-investment and overcrowding.






i newspaper, August 19, 2017

This must be the most unoriginal heading of all time. The Royal Mail produces a dozen or more special issues every year, and I guarantee that every time one is reported, someone thinks they are the first to come up with the ‘stamp of approval’ line – or doesn’t care that it has been used hundreds of times before.

‘Children’s teddy bear’? This is as opposed to the ones produced for adults, I suppose. Like ‘playground’, by definition a toy is for children. In the heading, by the same token, something made in the 1930s is by definition ‘old’, or at least ‘vintage’.

In defence of the sub, far too much space has been allocated to the story and the headline. A couple of paragraphs with a picture would have been plenty. However, given that the heading has to be written, how about

The battered vintage teddy that’s
dusted off to star on a stamp

One amazing thing is that despite devoting several acres of tedious text to the teddy, there was no space to list the other nine classic toys featured on the stamps, viz. Sindy, Spirograph, Stickle Bricks, W. Britain toy figures, Spacehopper, Fuzzy-Felt, Meccano, Action Man and Hornby Dublo. A brief discussion of each of these would have been far more interesting than the free ad for Merrythought.

The Times Magazine, August 19, 2017

On the topic of overdone headlines, I would guess that between 25 and 33 per cent of headlines about John Lewis use the Never Knowingly Undersold line. Give it a rest. Please.


I have just found these two horrors from the Daily Express dated August 18, 2017.

I think I saw the first version of the Stones heading in 1964, and it’s been back at regular intervals ever since. As for the Elvis one . . . You have simply got to avoid reaching for the first cliche that comes into your head. If you find yourself thinking ‘That’ll do’, it almost certainly won’t.

I am now going off for a quiet weep.


So few words, so many errors

The i bills itself as a ‘quality’ paper, so this stuff is not good enough. Both cuttings are from August 18, 2017, and I haven’t even got past Page 3.

In this heading, you can either have ‘$510m awaits one very lucky winner’ or ‘$510m waits for one very lucky winner’, but not ‘awaits for’. ‘Rollover’ is a noun. If you use it as a verb it is two words, as in ‘Roll over Beethoven’. I didn’t underline this, but it is not the ‘game’ which is rolling over, but the ‘prize’. Opinions vary about split infinitives but this one is unnecessary because ‘either’ is superfluous. I would insert ‘in’ before ‘one’ in the last sentence. A dollar amount should always be converted into sterling, and if the winner takes the lump sum, why is it less than the jackpot mentioned at the start of the story?

The possessive of ‘it’ is ‘its’, as with ‘hers’ or ‘theirs’. It is illiterate to add an apostrophe. ‘It’s’ is the short form of ‘it is’ and is correct in the second reference, but I think it is too informal for a news story. ‘Ongoing’ is horrible and unnecessary in this context. The stray comma in the last line suggests that not the slightest care has been taken to check the copy through. If I were the editor of the i, I would be most unhappy.