Sunday Times, July 2, 2017

Regular readers will know that this should be ‘sank’, the past tense of ‘sink’. ‘Sunk’ is the past participle, which goes with forms of ‘have’, such as ‘he had sunk his teeth into the sandwich’ or ‘he has sunk his teeth into the sandwich’. ‘Sunk’ is also the passive voice, as in ‘the ship was sunk by a torpedo’. (The passive voice is when something is done to an object, as opposed to the active voice, when a subject does something.)

Since English refuses to stick to rules, I have drawn up a chart of some verbs which seem to cause confusion. I will add more if I think of them. Obviously some verbs, such as ‘swim’, do not have a passive voice, or at least I can’t think of such a sentence.

Present tense Past tense Past participle /
pluperfect /
sink sank sunk
swim swam swum
shrink shrank shrunk
spin spun spun
swing swung swung
ring rang rung
sing sang sung
fling flung flung
string strung strung
sting stung stung
run ran run
drink drank drunk
wring wrung wrung
cling clung clung
stink stank stunk
bring brought brought
hang hung
(execution: hanged)
slink slunk slunk


The Times, July 1, 2017

If, as a London-based writer, you feel the need to be mildly patronising about the North, at least get the spelling right. This should be ‘gradely’, to rhyme with ‘Madeley’, not ‘gradley’, which would rhyme with ‘badly’.


i newspaper, July 1, 2017

I assume the writer of this letter to the editor knows how to spell his home town, so someone must have changed it from the correct Northwich to the incorrect Northwitch. This is unforgivable.


The Times, June 30, 2017

‘Ape’ is not an alternative for ‘monkey’. Apes and monkeys are separate groups of animals with many differences. Calling a monkey an ape is as inaccurate as calling it a human. In fact this animal was a crested black macaque monkey in Indonesia. And what a missed opportunity to revisit the wonderful picture in question:

Incidentally, where is ‘Monmouthsire’? And do we need Mr Slater’s age twice? Honestly.


i newspaper, June 29, 2017

It is beyond me how anyone could send this through without asking what the comparative figures are. It took me seconds to find that they are 27 and 144. Without them the story is meaningless.


i newspaper, June 28, 2017

‘Forego’ means ‘to go in front of’, as in ‘the foregoing paragraph’. The word needed here is ‘forgo’, meaning ‘to do without’.

You don’t need to append ‘this year’ to 4 July. No one would suppose it means next year rather than next week.

‘So as not to disturb’ is clumsy. ‘To avoid disturbing’ is better.

This is an odd sentence: ‘This spring, an eaglet appeared in the nest’. Is the i newspaper suggesting it arrived by magic, or that someone placed it there? What is wrong with ‘This spring they hatched a chick’? (I think chick is more appropriate than eaglet for a hatchling.)


i newspaper, June 26, 2017

(130 words) This is typical of the sloppy approach often taken to wildlife stories. It appears from this that the arrival is called the ginger-headed bumblebee, when in fact it is called the tree bumblebee. This name turns up in the quote, but only as a puzzling anomaly. It is conventional (and sensible) to give the Latin name of a species which may be new to readers. It should be in italics, with the first name capped (in this case Bombus hypnorum). The story says the bee arrived in 2001, but where from? The answer is Europe. It would be worth adding that the charity Buglife describes the tree bumblebee as a ‘fantastic pollinator which does no harm to native wildlife’, to offset the suggestion in the story that it is a menace (though seven tweets does not indicate a major problem to me). Buglife also specifically says that the bee is not particularly aggressive. ‘The native tit bird’ is a most peculiar phrase. Finally, instead of the familiar face of Chris Packham, wouldn’t it be a good idea to use a picture of the bee in question so that readers can recognise it?

In earlier times a sub would have had to go the office library and try to find information from cuttings and reference books. Now it is available instantly on the internet. I can see no excuse for putting through such an incomplete and lazy story. If the copy is poor, it is the sub’s job to improve it. Otherwise there is no point in doing the job, is there?

This is how I would have done it:

A European bumblebee which has recently arrived in Britain is upsetting native birds, according to wildlife expert Chris Packham.

He says the tree bumblebee (inset), which has a distinctive ginger head, is taking over nestboxes, preventing birds such as bluetits from laying their eggs.

The Springwatch presenter has been filming a BBC documentary on urban wildlife which airs next month. He found dozens of species competing for resources.

‘Tree bumblebees typically nest in hollow trees but a bird box is a great replacement,’ he told the Sunday Times.

The tree bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum) was first seen in the New Forest in 2001 and has spread across the country. The charity Buglife says it is a welcome immigrant, describing it as ‘a fantastic pollinator which does no harm to native wildlife’. (132 words)



i newspaper, June 26, 2017

‘To dampen’ is to make moist. The verb required here is ‘damp’, meaning to suppress. It is often used with ‘down’, as in ‘he damped down the remains of the fire’.