The Times, December 31, 2021

Two pieces of ignorance in one article.

Writing ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’ is unforgivable. A sub-editor who cannot conjugate the verb ‘to lie’ (in the sense of being horizontal rather than telling an untruth) is taking money under false pretences. I don’t think you need to couple it with ‘down’ either.

It was not a ‘cross-country’ train but a CrossCountry one. You would really think that a Times sub-editor would recognise the names of the rail companies.



The Times, December 31, 2021

You don’t need to put ‘Britain’s’ unless there is any danger that the reader might otherwise assume you are talking about Belgium or Vietnam. ‘The’ is perfectly adequate.


i newspaper, December 28, 2021

(17 words)

Granted, this is a shockingly dull choice of picture, but you have to do better with a caption than writing exactly what the reader can see.

How about:

The desolate scene outside Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street yesterday as shoppers stayed away in droves (16 words)


i newspaper, December 28, 2021

I realise they don’t teach Latin in schools any more but anyone with pretensions to being literate should know that ‘strata’ is the plural of ‘stratum’ and therefore cannot be used as a singular noun.

At the start of the same paragraph, the writer talks about abolishing things ‘entirely’. You can’t partly abolish something so the word ‘entirely’ is redundant.


The Times, December 12, 2021

A late but very strong entry to the Worst Intro of the Year contest. What on earth has Dorothy Parker to do with sanitation operatives in New York? Nothing. This is contrived, irrelevant and looks like showing off. If I had been doing it I might have tried something on the lines of:

Christmas has come early for 100 binmen in New York. They have received overtime payments of $100,000 each after coping with staff shortages and heavy snow.



The Times, November 20, 2021

This should be one of the first words a sub learns to spell (it is Gurkha). I find it incredible that standards are so low at the Times that this has got into the paper. In my day this would quite rightly have been a sacking offence. If a sub can’t spell there is not a lot of point in doing the job.


Australia: Crocodile sinks his teeth into a flying drone

A crocodile leapt out of the water at a wildlife park in Darwin and sunk its teeth into a low flying drone.

BBC News Online, October 2, 2021

Two errors for the price of one.

Usually animals should be ‘it’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’, but this one gives both – you must be consistent.

The past tense of ‘sink’ is ‘sank’. ‘Sunk’ is the past participle (used with forms of ‘have’) and the passive voice.




The Times, September 25, 2021

How can anyone think that ‘split with’ makes sense? Would you put ‘Raducanu separates with coach’ or ‘Michael is divorced with Pamela’? The BBC website showed the same ignorance:

Emma Raducanu: British number one splits with coach after US Open win

‘With’ implies ‘together’ while ‘from’ implies distance.




The Times, July 8, 2021

I literally gasped when I saw this shocking piece of ignorance. This is the Times! Whoever let this through or changed it from the correct version should be sacked.

It is essential to know the rules about ‘lie’ and ‘lay’ because if you get it wrong it is as good as having ‘Plonker’ written on your forehead.
This is from Style Matters:

lay: This is the past tense of the verb ‘to lie’ as in ‘I lay on the ground yesterday’ and is also the transitive verb (transitive means it must take an object; it cannot stand alone) ‘to lay’ as in ‘the hen lays eggs’ or ‘I am going to lay the table’. The past tense of ‘to lay’ is ‘laid’. Of course, as everyone knows, ‘lay’ and ‘laid’ are also colloquial sexual expressions and great care must be taken to avoid an inadvertent double meaning. However the chief offence is using ‘lay’ instead of ‘lie’, as in ‘I’m going to lay down’, ‘She is laying on the bed’ or ‘The lion lays in wait for its prey’, or using ‘laid’ instead of ‘lay’, as in ‘He laid on his bed’. To complete the confusion there is the verb ‘to lie’ or tell an untruth. This one is comparatively simple, however.


A brief tour round the tenses:

to lie (as in recline)

present: I lie on the bed, he lies on the bed/I am lying on the bed

past: I lay on the bed, he lay on the ground

participle (with a form of have) I/he/we have/has/had lain on the bed

Note that the word ‘laid’ does not exist in this verb.

to lay (as in to put or place, followed by an object)

present: I lay the table, the hen lays eggs/I am laying the table

past: I laid the table, the hen laid eggs

participle: I/she have/has/had laid the table

Note: this is the only polite use for the word ‘laid’.

to lie (as in to tell an untruth)

present: I lie, he lies/he is lying

past: I/he lied

participle: I/he have/has/had lied