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By PLC 14 Jul, 2017

[6 Mar 2017] A useful website ( http://stylematters.margaretashworth.com ) full of editing hints and tips has sprung up to highlight the demise of traditional subeditors on many national and local newspapers. It does this by showing, among other things, the blunders arising from unsubbed text.

Subeditors, or subs, are journalists who spruce up, tighten and often rewrite copy submitted by reporters to make it ready for publication and understandable to the readership. Old-style subs who really care about punctuation, spelling and grammar have become rarities, says the website’s founder, Margaret Ashworth, a former Daily Mail sub who worked for the paper for 39 years, in an article in Communicator (istc.org.uk, Spring 2017).

There’s also a fine piece about the changing job roles of editors, subs and writers on former journalist Hugh Dawson’s web page: http://www.tomorrowsnewspapers.co.uk/yesterdays-journalists/4557750139

Here are a few recent examples from our own files that would/should/could have been spotted by subs.

Forgo forgotten : The Times (3 Mar 2017) reports that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo chief executive, has been deprived of her $2million cash bonus for 2016 after 1.5billion customers had their accounts hacked. ‘She has also voluntarily foregone her stock awards worth millions.’ That should be ‘forgone’, from the verb ‘forgo’, meaning to do without. To forego means to go before, as in ‘As stated in the foregoing paragraph’ and ‘foregone conclusion’.

Situations rampant : The Sunday Times (20 Nov 2016) gets into a repetitious tangle with the ‘situation’ of footballer Wayne Rooney: ‘…here was the practical reality of the 31-year-old’s wholly unsatisfactory situation as he faces what looks increasingly like a crisis situation with his club and manager…’.

Tautology 1 : The Times chess column on 10 Feb 2017 says: ‘Starting tomorrow, I shall be covering the best games [from the tournament] in this column. Here is a foretaste of things to come.’ Omit ‘of things to come’.

Tautology 2 : Ann Treneman’s review of the musical Floyd Collins (Times, 30 Sept 2017) shows signs of the kind of hasty copy filing that subs rectify: ‘There is a fantastic pacy number performed by the journalists sent to Kentucky to cover the sensational story. In terms of the cast, Rebecca Trehearn, as Nellie, her voice piercingly clear, is exceptionally good in terms of singing.’ The double ‘in terms of’ is truly woeful in a truly woeful sentence.

Tautology 3 : ‘The only reason why [Major] Booth’s body was identified nine months after his death was because of his engraved MCC cigarette case from England’s tour to South Africa in 1913-14 that was found among his remains.’ In this sentence, ‘reason’ and ‘because’ are doing each other’s job. Omit one of them.

Wrong idiom : ‘For Tara [Palmer-Tomkinson] knew she was desperately ill. While the pituitary tumour, as she was at odds to make clear in our interview, “seemed to have gone away”, a rare auto immune condition ravaged her body.’ (Daily Mail, 9 Feb 2017) For ‘at odds’, which means ‘in opposition to’ or ‘in dispute with’, read ‘at pains’, ie ‘eager’.

Refute versus  deny : ‘Afghan officials accuse her [Captain Niloofar Rahmani) of lying. They have refuted claims that her life is at risk and demanded that the US reject the asylum application.’ (Times, 27 Dec 2016) To refute means to disprove, so here it’s likely that ‘deny’ was meant, since the report gave no evidence for what the officials said.

Oh Laud : In his Times rugby column on 3 Feb 2017, Stuart Barnes writes: ‘In France, more than any other country, the No 9 tends to laud it over the No 10.’ For ‘laud’, which means ‘praise’, read ‘lord’ which means ‘act in a superior way’. As prowling pedants, we try not to lord it over other humble scribes.

Take off and landing : You’d hope an alert sub would notice the incongruity in this sentence about Mary Tyler Moore, comedy actress, in the Daily Mail on 26 Jan 2017: ‘In 1961, Moore’s career began to take off as she landed the role of Laura Petrie, the suburban New York wife.’
By PLC 14 Jul, 2017

[29 May 2017] Jargon and officialese remain rampant in West Yorkshire as a local resident discovered after raising concerns with Leeds city council’s highways department, using simple vocabulary and short sentences as follows:

I note that on Holt Lane, there are two main speed humps in the carriageway and separate narrow humps close to the kerb on each side of the road. On Farrar Lane there are only two humps.

I have concerns that the small narrow humps could be potentially dangerous to cyclists who are obliged to ride close to the kerb.

Is the installation of the smaller humps to specification?

Other speed hump installations seen on Spen Lane/Morris Lane between Queenswood Drive and Kirkstall Lane do not have the small kerbside humps. They do however have a wide white painted stripe close to the kerb.

The council’s response, written by an assistant engineer, soon lurched into obscuranto. Students of that strange tongue will note, in particular, the author’s use of ‘vertical feature’ and a fondness for impersonal-passive constructions like ‘it is believed’ and ‘it is acknowledged’:

The determination as to when to implement the ‘tear drop’ markings and humps at the side of the speed cushions depends on the width of the carriageway and the need to avoid leaving a gap between kerb and cushion or between cushion and cushion that is wide enough for a vehicle to pass through, but the road is not wide enough to have a three cushion layout as per Holtdale Approach. Farrar Lane is sufficiently narrow enough to require only one cushion within each lane, whereas Holt Lane is wider and the need to provide the additional features is present.

The Council moved away from using just painted areas some time ago, after it was found that drivers soon became aware that these areas could be driven through without experiencing any vertical feature. Whilst the lack of vertical feature is beneficial to cyclists, it was determined that the presence of a vehicle in that space would present a greater danger to cyclists. It was therefore determined that small humps should be used in these situations to prevent drivers from entering this space usually occupied by cyclists. It is acknowledged that the resultant situation does require cyclists to then pass through the same gap between the cushion and smaller hump, however it is believed that this is generally along a similar line to that taken by cyclists and drivers respect the position of the cyclist and will generally wait until past the speed cushion to pass, so as to not cause themselves undue discomfort in driving over the speed cushion incorrectly.

If the city’s highway engineers write like this, there’s little wonder the Leeds inner ring road remains so tortuous.
By PLC 14 Jul, 2017

[6 Mar 2017] A useful website ( http://stylematters.margaretashworth.com ) full of editing hints and tips has sprung up to highlight the demise of traditional subeditors on many national and local newspapers. It does this by showing, among other things, the blunders arising from unsubbed text.

Subeditors, or subs, are journalists who spruce up, tighten and often rewrite copy submitted by reporters to make it ready for publication and understandable to the readership. Old-style subs who really care about punctuation, spelling and grammar have become rarities, says the website’s founder, Margaret Ashworth, a former Daily Mail sub who worked for the paper for 39 years, in an article in Communicator (istc.org.uk, Spring 2017).

There’s also a fine piece about the changing job roles of editors, subs and writers on former journalist Hugh Dawson’s web page: http://www.tomorrowsnewspapers.co.uk/yesterdays-journalists/4557750139

Here are a few recent examples from our own files that would/should/could have been spotted by subs.

Forgo forgotten : The Times (3 Mar 2017) reports that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo chief executive, has been deprived of her $2million cash bonus for 2016 after 1.5billion customers had their accounts hacked. ‘She has also voluntarily foregone her stock awards worth millions.’ That should be ‘forgone’, from the verb ‘forgo’, meaning to do without. To forego means to go before, as in ‘As stated in the foregoing paragraph’ and ‘foregone conclusion’.

Situations rampant : The Sunday Times (20 Nov 2016) gets into a repetitious tangle with the ‘situation’ of footballer Wayne Rooney: ‘…here was the practical reality of the 31-year-old’s wholly unsatisfactory situation as he faces what looks increasingly like a crisis situation with his club and manager…’.

Tautology 1 : The Times chess column on 10 Feb 2017 says: ‘Starting tomorrow, I shall be covering the best games [from the tournament] in this column. Here is a foretaste of things to come.’ Omit ‘of things to come’.

Tautology 2 : Ann Treneman’s review of the musical Floyd Collins (Times, 30 Sept 2017) shows signs of the kind of hasty copy filing that subs rectify: ‘There is a fantastic pacy number performed by the journalists sent to Kentucky to cover the sensational story. In terms of the cast, Rebecca Trehearn, as Nellie, her voice piercingly clear, is exceptionally good in terms of singing.’ The double ‘in terms of’ is truly woeful in a truly woeful sentence.

Tautology 3 : ‘The only reason why [Major] Booth’s body was identified nine months after his death was because of his engraved MCC cigarette case from England’s tour to South Africa in 1913-14 that was found among his remains.’ In this sentence, ‘reason’ and ‘because’ are doing each other’s job. Omit one of them.

Wrong idiom : ‘For Tara [Palmer-Tomkinson] knew she was desperately ill. While the pituitary tumour, as she was at odds to make clear in our interview, “seemed to have gone away”, a rare auto immune condition ravaged her body.’ (Daily Mail, 9 Feb 2017) For ‘at odds’, which means ‘in opposition to’ or ‘in dispute with’, read ‘at pains’, ie ‘eager’.

Refute versus  deny : ‘Afghan officials accuse her [Captain Niloofar Rahmani) of lying. They have refuted claims that her life is at risk and demanded that the US reject the asylum application.’ (Times, 27 Dec 2016) To refute means to disprove, so here it’s likely that ‘deny’ was meant, since the report gave no evidence for what the officials said.

Oh Laud : In his Times rugby column on 3 Feb 2017, Stuart Barnes writes: ‘In France, more than any other country, the No 9 tends to laud it over the No 10.’ For ‘laud’, which means ‘praise’, read ‘lord’ which means ‘act in a superior way’. As prowling pedants, we try not to lord it over other humble scribes.

Take off and landing : You’d hope an alert sub would notice the incongruity in this sentence about Mary Tyler Moore, comedy actress, in the Daily Mail on 26 Jan 2017: ‘In 1961, Moore’s career began to take off as she landed the role of Laura Petrie, the suburban New York wife.’
By PLC 14 Jul, 2017

[29 May 2017] Jargon and officialese remain rampant in West Yorkshire as a local resident discovered after raising concerns with Leeds city council’s highways department, using simple vocabulary and short sentences as follows:

I note that on Holt Lane, there are two main speed humps in the carriageway and separate narrow humps close to the kerb on each side of the road. On Farrar Lane there are only two humps.

I have concerns that the small narrow humps could be potentially dangerous to cyclists who are obliged to ride close to the kerb.

Is the installation of the smaller humps to specification?

Other speed hump installations seen on Spen Lane/Morris Lane between Queenswood Drive and Kirkstall Lane do not have the small kerbside humps. They do however have a wide white painted stripe close to the kerb.

The council’s response, written by an assistant engineer, soon lurched into obscuranto. Students of that strange tongue will note, in particular, the author’s use of ‘vertical feature’ and a fondness for impersonal-passive constructions like ‘it is believed’ and ‘it is acknowledged’:

The determination as to when to implement the ‘tear drop’ markings and humps at the side of the speed cushions depends on the width of the carriageway and the need to avoid leaving a gap between kerb and cushion or between cushion and cushion that is wide enough for a vehicle to pass through, but the road is not wide enough to have a three cushion layout as per Holtdale Approach. Farrar Lane is sufficiently narrow enough to require only one cushion within each lane, whereas Holt Lane is wider and the need to provide the additional features is present.

The Council moved away from using just painted areas some time ago, after it was found that drivers soon became aware that these areas could be driven through without experiencing any vertical feature. Whilst the lack of vertical feature is beneficial to cyclists, it was determined that the presence of a vehicle in that space would present a greater danger to cyclists. It was therefore determined that small humps should be used in these situations to prevent drivers from entering this space usually occupied by cyclists. It is acknowledged that the resultant situation does require cyclists to then pass through the same gap between the cushion and smaller hump, however it is believed that this is generally along a similar line to that taken by cyclists and drivers respect the position of the cyclist and will generally wait until past the speed cushion to pass, so as to not cause themselves undue discomfort in driving over the speed cushion incorrectly.

If the city’s highway engineers write like this, there’s little wonder the Leeds inner ring road remains so tortuous.
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