The Times, February 10, 2017

A best-loved passenger train? Is there a chart listing trains in order of the affection in which they are held? Has anyone ever been heard to say ‘I really love the InterCity 125 – I would not travel on anything else’? This is sheer nonsense.




Times, February 9, 2017

This is a prime example of an attempt at a clever intro which instead is a ridiculous non sequitur. What on earth has the longevity of the force got to do with anything? It is hopeless, and even includes a repetition of ‘police force’. So often I see this sort of contrived intro which does not work. It is infinitely better to do it straight, as the i newspaper did on the same day:

This is clear and includes more detail. We learn, for example, that there are eight constables. The Times does not give a number, though there is a picture showing 11 officers. Unlike the Times, the i also spells out that anyone arrested by the cathedral police will still be dealt with by the regular North Yorkshire force. The point of all this is: forget trying to be smart, just tell the story.

PS: I take issue with the use of the word ‘specialist’ in both versions to describe the constables’ training. Surely we can take it as read that they are not being trained as doctors or plumbers?


Sunday Express, February 5, 2017

Dear oh dear. An editor should know better. He has two sons, so they are the elder and younger boys, not eldest and youngest. He could have got away with ‘eldest child’ for the first boy but not ‘youngest child’ for the second boy, because there is a daughter aged 18 who is the youngest child. I don’t think you can say ‘my two eldest children’ either; that should be ‘my two elder children’. 0/10.

Incidentally you can say ‘eldest’ or ‘oldest’ for related people, but only ‘oldest’ for unrelated people or things, such as ‘the oldest boy in the class’ or ‘the oldest rocks yet discovered’.

PS It has been brought to my attention by my son that younger people find this rule archaic and are quite happy with ‘oldest’ of two. I still don’t see any harm in doing it ‘right’.


Times, February 4, 2017

Hyphens are a problem in this piece. You don’t need one if you are using ‘write off’ as a verb, but you do if you are using it as a noun. So the heading is wrong, but ‘written off’ is correct in the intro, and ‘write-off’ is correct in the second leg. ‘Lime green’ does not need a hyphen. You would not put one in ‘sunshine yellow’ or ‘royal blue’. Incidentally I would say a windscreen is at the front of a car, not at the back. I would use ‘back window’.


The Times, February 3, 2017

This is something you really can’t do. The heading says something quite different from the copy. I think Dan Evans has previously said that he ‘let a lot of people down’, but crucially not on this occasion. Apart from being bad practice, in the past headings which go beyond the copy in this way have cost papers a lot of money.


i newspaper, February 1, 2017

Four points handily packaged in one article. Above, the second sentence would be immensely improved by moving the words ‘in 2008’ so that it reads ‘the disappearance in 2008 of Shannon Matthews – who, it was later found . . .’ This places ‘who’ next to the person, rather than the year. A small change that makes a big difference. Incidentally (third paragraph) I would prefer not to use a quote by a new speaker without introducing him first. I don’t think it makes for easy reading to wonder who is speaking. Not everyone agrees though.

Here is a new word, ‘swang’. I can see how this may have happened, because the past tense of many similar words has an ‘a’, for example ‘swam’ and ‘sank’. In those cases the past participle (which is used with forms of ‘have’) is ‘swum’ and ‘sunk’. So you would have ‘the boat sank’ or ‘the boat had sunk’. Presumably the writer did not want to fall into this trap, but unfortunately ‘swing’ does not not follow the same pattern, and both the past tense and the participle are ‘swung’.

Further down is the word ‘saying’ in square brackets, to indicate that the speaker omitted the word but that is what he meant. I find this silly. Who on earth would complain about having the word ‘saying’ inserted into a quote? It makes the piece that bit less smooth to read.

At the end of that paragraph it would look better, as well as being correct, to close the single quotes, put the full stop, then close the double quotes, rather than have triple quotes.



The Times, February 1, 2017

Just because someone is dead does not mean he or she has to be referred to in the past tense. You would not say, for example, ‘Shakespeare was considered to be the greatest British playwright’. This should read: ‘Oscar Wilde is among thousands of  . . .’