Errors and Omissions: Order! Order! Otherwise you’ll confuse the reader

This week's howlers in the Independent

Share

Last Saturday we ran an article about the five candidates for the presidency of the European Commission. Across the top was a photograph of the five, taking part in a TV debate. Their names were listed in the caption, from left to right: Tsipras, Keller, Schulz, Juncker, Verhofstadt.

So far, so good. But below, arranged vertically, were a series of little pen portraits of the five. From the top they were: Juncker, Keller, Schulz, Tsipras, Verhofstadt. It would have been the work of a moment to transpose Juncker and Tsipras, so that the five were in the same order in both picture and text, making life much easier for the reader.

* “And which” very often means trouble. We reported last Saturday: “A film inspired by the case of a missing child in Canada and which has parallels with the story of Madeleine McCann received its premiere in Cannes yesterday.” The two clauses need to be grammatically consistent. Just leave out the “and”. That gives you: “a film inspired by the case of a missing child in Canada, which has parallels with the story of Madeleine McCann”. That hangs together properly, and makes clear that it is the case in Canada, not the film, which has parallels with McCann – a distinction that was fudged in the original version.

* A column published last Saturday began thus: “Jackie Kennedy epitomised an era when well-bred women kept their mouth shut.” How many well-bred women shared that mouth that they kept shut? Was there any reason not to write “an era when well-bred women kept their mouths shut” – or, even better, “when a well-bred woman kept her mouth shut”?

If our language is to reflect ideals of gender equality, we need a gender-neutral third person singular pronoun, and “they/them/their” has got the job. The price is some slackness about number agreement, as in this case, where “their” makes an unhappy link between the plural “women” and the singular “mouth”.

* On Tuesday we ran a story about John Gummer, the former Tory minister, now ennobled as Lord Deben. The first paragraph called him John Gummer. The second went on: “In an interview with The Independent, Mr Gummer – life peer Lord Deben – acknowledged that…”

Since most of the hereditaries were booted out of the House of Lords, the style for peers has become more relaxed. Many of them sign themselves “John Loamshire” instead of just “Loamshire”. There can be no objection to referring to Lord Deben as John Gummer, which is still his name, but “Mr Gummer” is surely still out. “Mr” implies a certain status, one that his lordship left behind upon being raised to the peerage. You can be either “Mr” or “Lord”, but not both.

* A theatre review on Monday said that the poet Simon Armitage “goes on to extract a rich load from the contrast between the urbane Zeus on Olympus and the decrepit immortal three millennia on”. Maybe the reviewer meant “load”, but “lode” – a vein of precious metal – seems more likely.

React Now

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

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence