i newspaper, April 6, 2017

The word ‘people’ is rarely necessary. Who or what else would apply to university? Giraffes? Zombies?

The intro could be

The number of applications to study at UK universities and higher education institutes has fallen.


Applications to study at UK universities and higher education institutes have fallen.

The heading could be

Drop in applications to
study at UK universities

which would be a better shape, too.


The Times, April 5, 2017

This is a worthy candidate for worst intro of all time. It is too bad to analyse. The story then drivels on about the meaning of the Latin words when it should be about the protest.

This is the way to do it:

i newspaper, April 5, 2017

It would be hard to improve this.


Daily Express, March 31, 2017

‘Ashen’ is the adjective for something the colour of ash. So this means ‘ash-colour-coloured’. In any case we have already been told that the pizza base is black, so this is needless repetition. I would delete the words ‘the ashen-coloured base and’. This gives you a reasonable sentence.

The repetition of ‘taste’ in the first two pars could be avoided by using ‘flavour’.

You do not need to repeat ‘supermarket’ in the second paragraph. Everyone knows what a chain is in this context. Actually it would be better to put Waitrose at the end of the second paragraph and ‘chain’ in the third.

Later, you cannot end one quote and start another in this way. It looks like an error, as if the quotes have wrongly been closed after the first paragraph. The way to do it is to end the first quote and start the next paragraph with ‘A Waitrose spokesman added:  . . .’

This would give you:

IT’S a taste we’ve all achieved accidentally, but now a supermarket has launched the charcoal pizza, complete with black base.

Made from hand-stretched sourdough with charcoal in the mix, its bitter flavour is part of a new foodie fad, according to Waitrose.

Manisha Kotecha, the chain’s pizza developer, explained: “With the growing popularity of charcoal in food and drink, and the striking visual that it delivers, we know our wood-fired anti-pasti pizza will be a big hit.”

A Waitrose spokesman added: “The crisp base [take in the rest].

The heading is dreadful. How can a fad serve up anything?

Pizza that’s meant
to taste of charcoal

is exactly the same character count, and it makes sense.




She also takes home £940,000 in prize money in claiming what was her third WTA Tour success from a fourth final.

BBC Sport website, April 2, 2017

The words ‘what was’ are ugly and unnecessary. Delete them and you get

She also takes home £940,000 in prize money in claiming her third WTA Tour success from a fourth final.

which is so much better.


The Times, March 31, 2017

‘Snuggly’ is a childish adjective derived from the verb ‘to snuggle’. The word that is wanted here is ‘snugly’, an adverb derived from the adjective ‘snug’, meaning in this context ‘close’, ie a close fit. The wretched ‘snuggly’ is a favourite word at the Times: see post #52. I don’t see it having any place in a serious newspaper.


The Times, March 29, 2017

This is another example of the prevalent ignorance about the natural world. You can’t call a cygnet a duckling. It is like putting ‘lamb’ on a caption about a calf. ‘Mute cygnet’ reads very oddly. In fact there is no need to identify it as a mute swan, because this is by far the most common species in this country. You would only need to put the species if it is not a mute swan. So ‘cygnet’ is perfectly adequate. I feel the word ‘peeps’ would be better than ‘peers’.



The Times, March 28, 2017

I am astonished and disheartened that this headline must have been seen by several members of staff before it got into the paper, yet no one found ‘The cat’s out the bag’ unacceptable. This may be how characters speak in American novels, but it is not English. To compound the offence, it mixes singular (‘the cat’s’ and ‘is’) and plural (‘their’). Admittedly ‘their’ could be taken to mean ‘he or she’, but it is still clumsy. How about

The cat’s out of the bag: Its
indifference is just an act

which solves both problems and is a good fit.

Here’s an idea: let’s not bother with standards. Let’s use the first sloppy and inarticulate rubbish that comes to mind. Oh, wait – that’s what some people are doing already.





Sunday Times, March 26, 2017

How on earth did this headline get into the paper? ‘Balm’ is not a noun for a type of weather – it is a plant, an ointment or something that soothes, for example ‘balm for the soul’. A basic requirement for a headline is that it is in English.




The Times, March 24, 2017

A principle of subbing is that you don’t make the reader do mental arithmetic. In this story both the headline and the second paragraph tell us the little girl vanished in 1970, but it is not until the seventh paragraph that we are told that this was 47 years ago. Yes, the reader could work it out, but he or she shouldn’t have to.

i newspaper, March 24, 2017

This is a much better way of doing it – the heading gives the date, the intro does the calculation. I would have put 47 years ago rather than nearly 50, but it’s good enough.

However both stories have the fault of calling a child of three ‘a toddler’. This term should be reserved for children who have just started walking, which is usually around the one-year mark, give or take a few months. By three most children are confident and steady walkers. I would say ‘toddler’ should not be used for a child of more than two.

Another point is that the Times says ‘the blond-haired’ child. A female is blonde, not blond, and you don’t need to say ‘blonde-haired’, just ‘the blonde child’.