Errors and Omissions: The latest rail excuse? There's an elephant on the line

Our chief politicical commentator casts his eye over this week's Independent


The planned high-speed rail line, HS2, is a “costly white elephant”, we said in a leading article yesterday. The thing about the story of the white elephant is that it was an impressive gift that cost its recipient too much to keep. But the rail line is different: it would cost us more than it would benefit us, according to the National Audit Office, but it would not be ruinous, and it is not just for show.

One step beyond: “Guilt for this outrage extends way beyond the abusers,” said a headline on our Voices pages on Thursday. “Far beyond” is the conventional usage and it is the same number of characters, so we should prefer that, except when we are deliberately copying the way young people talk.

Tautology watch: A leading article on Thursday expressed alarm at the speed with which al-Qa’ida and other Islamist groups had seized control of northern Mali and “imposed brutally severe sharia law”. It is a small point, but sharia means law.

Free money: We wrote on Thursday about plans for a film about the migration of monarch butterflies and the people they come across. The film-maker has made a five-minute short “to try to crowd-source funds for the project”. I suppose crowd-sourcing funds sounds posher than raising money, but it is a euphemism. Then we said that you can watch the film “for free” at a website address. “Free” will do, and there is no need these days to give full website addresses. In this case, we needed to say only: “Search for The Journey by Ali Alvarez.”

Elusive sense: Our report on Thursday on a breakthrough in human cloning included this: “Although the procedure has been achieved in laboratory animals – such as mice and monkeys – it has until now alluded several attempts on human material.” That looks as if we meant “eluded”, which means escaped or avoided, but the sentence has gone wrong before we get that far. “Procedure” is a dull, imprecise word, warning us to rewrite. “Stem cells have been created in laboratory animals,” we could have said, “but several attempts to do so in human tissue have been unsuccessful until now.”

Sounds like it: Stephen Breuer, who pointed out that error, also noticed that we wrote about “spying in the Caucuses”, which is the plural of caucus rather than the region, the Caucasus; and that we referred to protests in Syria “which declaimed sectarianism”, when we meant decried or denounced.

Extra superfluous: One of our columnists predicted on Tuesday that the Conservative Party would split over Europe. This would end at last “the poisonous, passive-aggressive Euro-marriage that has riven the Tories for decades, while the added bonus might be years of expensive legal squabbling over the rights to the name”. Colourful stuff, but “added bonus” is a tautology.

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