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’.


i newspaper, March 24, 2017

In a story about the funeral of a man of 27, it is essential to give the cause of death or, as in this case, say the cause of death is not known. Admittedly this was said in a story on the sports pages of the same edition, but there is no cross-reference and many readers will not have seen the second  story. (This piece tied in with the funeral of Martin McGuinness.)


The Times, March 24, 2017

Once again, birds lay eggs, which hatch. They are not ‘born’. So this should say ‘These cygnets hatched on Saturday’.

I have often found that journalists take a perverse pride in being ignorant about scientific and natural history matters. Most peculiar.


The Times, March 24, 2017

It’s unforgivable for a journalist to be unable to spell ‘paparazzi’. It is correct in the story, so all that was needed was to copy it.

In this paragraph, although paparazzi is right, Rossellini is spelled correctly and incorrectly within the space of a few words. What a pathetic effort.



i newspaper, March 24, 2017

(52 words) Even shorts like this can convey plenty of information. The obvious questions on being told that the couple are expecting a second child are ‘How old is the first child and is it a boy or a girl?’ The quote about being happy is not necessary. The surprise would be if they issued a statement saying they were not happy. And ‘the birth is expected for September’  sounds like a poor translation from the Swedish. It is certainly not English.

This is how I would have done it:

Sweden’s Prince Carl Philip and Princess Sofia are expecting their second child in September. The couple have a son, Alexander, who will be one year old next month. The 37-year-old prince, son of King Carl XVI Gustaf [no need to say ‘Sweden’s’ – it is obvious] and fifth in line to the throne, married the former reality TV star Sofia Hellqvist in 2015. (56 words)





i newspaper, March 23, 2017

The heading has Channel 4 as a plural entity (‘identify’) but the copy has it as a singular one (‘was’ and ‘its’). Companies and organisations can often be singular or plural, but you have to settle on one and be consistent within the story.


i newspaper, March 23, 2017

The expressions ‘wheelchair-bound’ and ‘confined to a wheelchair’ cause great offence to the disability lobby and should never be used. Here the i newspaper has managed to use one in a Page 2 write-off and the other in the main story on Page 17. Acceptable phrases include ‘wheelchair user’ and ‘who uses a wheelchair’. This link gives a wheelchair user’s view:



Daily Telegraph, March 22, 2017

Surely it goes without saying that the parents were dead? Let’s hope so. Every word in a story should be considered to decide whether it is necessary.

I think a better heading would be ‘Cliff fall twins . . .’ It is a better shape and somehow a little more tasteful.

Incidentally it is usual practice to give the name of the court where an inquest or any other case is held. (It was Maidstone.) The story should also say where the victims came from. (The Burgess twins came from Elton, Cheshire, and Mr Enion from Radcliffe, Greater Manchester.)


The Times, March 21, 2017

‘After’ does not mean ‘at the same time’. The implication of this piece is that Richard Hammond crashed his bike then someone came along and hit him over the head, and that the same thing happened after his previous accident with the rocket car.

Apart from that, the word ‘after’ is used four times in a very short story and heading.

This how I would do it:

Richard Hammond was knocked unconscious when he fell off a motorbike while filming The Grand Tour in Africa.

The 47-year-old TV presenter [note: not the TV presenter, 47, which is clumsy] suffered a brain injury 11 years ago [I think this is better than 2006 because the reader does not need to calculate how long ago it was] when a rocket car he was driving for Top Gear crashed at 288mph.

The latest accident happened in Mozambique, where Hammond was filming on location with Jeremy Clarkson and James May for their new series on Amazon Prime.

Yesterday [I don’t see any need for a comma] he told his fans he was fine.