Errors and Omissions: Let’s consign this cliché to a weighty tomb

This week's Independent is put under the microscope by our in-house pedant


I’m not sure if this was a brain scramble or just a typing error, but on Tuesday we said, of Harry Redknapp’s autobiography, “The author of the weighty tomb claims he can hardly write.” What we ended up with was better – almost poetic: a book in which Redknapp’s earthly reputation will be preserved for ever – than the clichéd phrase it replaced. “Weighty tome” being mock-Tudor for “long book”. We could do without it.

“The fact that” ought to be read by any editor as “please rewrite this bit”. On Tuesday we wrote: “This week our thoughts are with X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger as she battles her personal demons: namely, the fact that she appears to be drunk on camera when actually she isn’t.” It would have been more elegant if we had simply struck out “the fact”.

Conditionitis: Journalists in a hurry often suffer from a condition known as needless condition syndrome. The symptom is the unnecessary insertion of the word “condition” in sentences, often about the weather. On Monday we reported on the technique used by albatrosses to remain airborne without expending much energy. “By repeatedly using this method, they can travel thousands of miles depending on the wind conditions.” The word “conditions” could simply have been deleted.

As it could on Tuesday, when we analysed the possible causes of the apparent pause in global warming, which included, we said, “the effect of El Niño and La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean”. Then on Wednesday we reported that the weather in parts of the UK had become colder: “Two inches of snow have already fallen in Scotland, where windy conditions are expected to last until this morning.” Meaning “... where it is expected to be windy until this morning”.

How many deciles? We carried a news story on Thursday which made the important point that the Liberal Democrat policy of raising the point at which people start to pay income tax tends to benefit better-off households. This is because two-earner couples gain twice, unless they are very well-off, earning more than £41,450 a year, which takes them into the 40p tax band. Our explanation of this surprising effect, for a policy promoted as benefiting the low-paid, was rigorously factual: “People in the seventh, eighth and ninth of the 10 deciles on the earnings ladder would see a bigger percentage rise in their income than those lower down the scale.” It is clear enough if you know that a decile is a 10th of a population, ranked in order, and if you know that statisticians call the poorest 10th the “first” decile. But it might have been easier to understand if we had said something like: “The best-off 30 per cent of households below the top 10 per cent would gain most as a share of their income, and more than those lower down the scale.”

Check your echelon: Our review of Pompey by Jonathan Meades on Thursday was favourable. “It is a stunning performance, and places Meades in the upper echelon of 20th-century prose stylists.” But no one knows what an echelon is. It used to mean the ranks of a wedge-shaped military formation with each row longer than the one in front. There would therefore be no “upper” echelon.

Guy Keleny is away

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

Read Next
9.4 million people watched the first of the three-way debates at the last election. The audience for the one on Thursday is likely to be far lower.  

David Cameron needs to learn some new tricks – and fast

Steve Richards
The 2010-formed Coalition was led by a partly reformed Conservative Party, checked and balanced by Nick Clegg  

How did the Coalition ever manage to work together so harmoniously?

Isabel Hardman
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor