The Times, November 27, 2018

I am guessing this rather clumsy heading is built on a vague memory of the ‘six-word story’ attributed to Ernest Hemingway: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn’. The thing about using a well-known phrase, saying or title, is that you should stick as closely as possible to the original. Thus this should have been

For sale: playboy’s silk pyjamas, hardly worn

Isn’t that an improvement?


Finally, I’ve found what caused my brain fog, chronic fatigue, depression and aching joints…an insect bite!

  • Writer, journalist and columnist James Dellingpole, 53, suffered for many years 
  • The cause is a Lyme Disease – which is notoriously difficult to diagnose and treat  
  • Here, he reveals his on-going battle to beat the devastating tick-borne condition 

Mail Online, November 20, 2018

One traditional courtesy extended to writers is to spell their names correctly. James Delingpole is (or should be) very well known, and I assume he spelled his name right on his copy.

Secondly, a tick is not an insect. There is a picture with the article showing that it has eight legs, not six, which should be a clue. Presumably such basic nature study knowledge is beneath the titans of Mail Online. For their information, a tick is an arachnid, related to spiders.



Sunday Times, November 18, 2018

Surely booing is by definition hostile? Can you imagine ‘appreciative booing’? It is also quite hard to imagine ‘booing from a quiet crowd’. You might get away with ‘Despite booing from a hostile crowd’ but I think that is borderline tautology. Better to say ‘Despite booing from the spectators’ (spectators being the specific word for a crowd watching sport) and maybe work in the adjective ‘hostile’ further down.

These are tiny details yet they are well worth your attention. Every word should be considered to see if it has earned its place.


The Times, November 7, 2018

So what level of violence would have been acceptable? Mild? Moderate? If the police say idiotic things, you are not compelled to use them. It might have been more useful in the quest for information to use the space to say the attack happened in Bounds Green rather than ‘north London’.


Sunday Times, November 4, 2018

Two examples of complete lack of interest in the words. How can you have a piece about expensive and good-value champagnes without quoting prices? It is meaningless.

As for Federer and his twins – how can you say that one pair are identical and not specify whether the others are or not? (They aren’t – all you need to do is look at a picture.) One of the arts of subbing is not leaving the reader asking questions.


Sunday Times, November 4, 2018

If you get a ‘delayed drop’ story, where the reader is meant to wonder what is happening until the joke is revealed, don’t ruin it by giving it away in the headline.

An alternative for this might be

Who’s terrifying
Oxford’s finest?




Daily Express, November 3, 2018

Leaving aside the mysterious process by which a story about an actress eating an onion was judged important enough to feature in a national newspaper, here is an example of ‘inelegant variation’, the expression coined by Keith Waterhouse for a contorted effort to avoid repetition. For a selection to which this has now been added, see ‘The Compleat Sub-editor’ in Style Matters http://stylematters.margaretashworth.com/the-compleat-sub-editor/


The Times, November 3, 2018

Two cliches for the price of one, and neither worth using. This is a good example of a useless intro that can simply be lopped off to make a much better story. All you need to do is insert ‘in fees’ after ‘cut’ and change ‘voters’ to ‘parents’ to give you:

The cut in fees apparently mooted by the Augar review might appeal to parents. But it could be catastrophic  . . .


2018 British Journalism Awards shortlist revealed: ‘This is what Dame Cairncross needs to protect’

Press Gazette is proud to announce the finalists for the 2018 British Journalism Awards for public interest journalism.

Chairman of judges, Press Gazette editor-in-chief Dominic Ponsford, said:

“As the Cairncross Review continues its work examining the sustainability of high-quality journalism in the UK, the work on display here provides ample evidence of the tremendous good which our industry does. And it shows the vital importance of finding a sustainable future for robust probing journalism which holds power to account in the digital age. This is what Dame Cairncross needs to protect.”

Extracts from Press Gazette on its journalism awards, October 2018

Press Gazette is the trade publication for journalists. I suppose that since standards of journalism have slipped so disastrously over the last ten or 20 years it is only fitting that the editor-in-chief of Press Gazette should display his own ignorance. When a woman is appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) she is addressed or identified as ‘Dame Firstname’, not ‘Dame Surname’, in the same way as a man who has been knighted. Thus this reference should be ‘Dame Frances’, not ‘Dame Cairncross’.