Errors and Omissions: A few things to bear in mind, moving forward

Our Letters Editor and chief pedant checks this week's Independent for howlers

Share

I am grateful to Bernard Theobald, who writes to draw attention to a sentence from our Wednesday coverage of the storm over southern England: “A combination of ‘the best forecasters in the world’  and technological advancements including a £30m supercomputer allowed the Met Office to accurately predict the St Jude’s storm four days before it formed.”

“Advancements” should be “advances”. Both words come from the same French origin and both date back to the Middle Ages. Both indicate forward movement, but “advance” has a much wider application. Anything from an army to a technology may advance, but “advancement” applies only to a person’s career; it means promotion or preferment.

Incidentally, and on a positive note, that sentence also illustrates what a foolish piece of pedantry it is to place an absolute ban on split infinitives. Why is “to accurately predict” seen by some as an outrage, when nobody turns a hair at, say, “will accurately predict”? And in this instance, to place “accurately” anywhere else is visibly to strain for correctitude. 

Fowler’s Modern English Usage has an enlightening passage on split infinitives.

No joke: “He has borne exhaustive comparisons to Jon Stewart, the American satirist whose nightly show regularly pokes fun at the great and the good in Washington. But for Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian comedian who became a TV sensation following the fall of Hosni Mubarak, satire is a joke where the punchline can mean jail.”

That is the opening paragraph of a news story published on Wednesday, and it is desperate stuff.  The story is about Bassem Youssef, an Egyptian TV satirist, and it is a good read. Why spoil it with a reference to somebody called Jon Stewart?

The illustration is unnecessary; we all know what a TV satirist does, in Egypt or anywhere else. We don’t need to be told that a TV satirist in Egypt is similar to a TV satirist in the US. And who is Jon Stewart?

I’m clearly not the only one who doesn’t know, since the writer felt obliged to tell us. If an illustration needs to be explained, it is not doing its job.

Real problem: “Real” is a slippery word. Last Saturday’s magazine carried a book extract about Gandhi’s friendship with an English couple during his early years in South Africa. This was puffed on the front page of the main newspaper with the words “The real Gandhi, by Ramachandra Guha”.

Behind this use of the word “real” there seem to lie at least two unexamined assumptions: that there is a contradiction between being an Indian nationalist and having English friends; and that those two aspects of Gandhi cannot both be equally “real” – one (the one that everybody knows about) must be a mere façade, while the other (the one we are now going to tell you about) reveals the true inner being of the man.

This kind of sub-Freudian tosh often lies behind the word “real”. Always distrust it. “Real” is usually false.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The PM proposed 'commonsense restrictions' on migrant benefits  

So who, really, is David Cameron, our re-elected ‘one nation’ Prime Minister?

Andrew Grice
Time travel: Thomas Cook has been trading since 1841  

A horror show from Thomas Cook that tells you all you need to know about ethical consumerism

Janet Street-Porter
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?