Errors & Omissions: Hard-working drones? Quite the opposite

Plus rocks and boulders, women and girls, masterminds and the journalese ‘saw’ from this week’s Independent

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A comment piece published on Wednesday considered women at work: “Women may make up less than a third of Britain’s entrepreneurs … but this is not because of some gender-specific character trait that turns female workers into drones best suited to a robotic production line.”

Drones are male bees. They are produced by the colony at specific times for the purpose of reproduction. Their only function is to mate with queens who will found new colonies. (Worker bees are all asexual females.) So in metaphorical usage, a drone is a person, usually a man, who does no work and lives a life of idle pleasure – nothing like a woman working on a production line.

• On Thursday we ran a story about the arrest of a number of Western tourists, including the British woman Eleanor Hawkins, for stripping naked (or according to other reports merely topless) and posing for pictures on top of a “sacred” mountain in Malaysia. There was an earthquake soon after, which locals blamed on the shameless behaviour of the visitors.

We reported: “When Mount Kinabalu was hit by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake last Friday large rocks and boulders tumbled down the mountain, leaving 18 people dead.”

What is the difference between a rock and a boulder? Which is bigger, a large rock or a small boulder? Does not “large rocks” paint the picture, without adding “and boulders”? Still, full marks to The Independent for calling the 24-year-old Ms Hawkins a woman throughout the story. Some other newspapers committed a further shameless act by calling her a “girl”. People are boys and girls up to the age of 18; after that, men and women.

• Here is the opening of a court report published on Wednesday: “An international smuggling syndicate that treated human beings like ‘freight’ masterminded the illegal transportation of 35 Afghan Sikhs into UK that led to one of them dying in a shipping container, a court heard.”

That sentence is too long, rambling and shapeless. It just has to be split up. And let’s get rid of the journalese “masterminded”; it makes the defendants sound like Professor Moriarty or Fu Manchu. Also, while we are at it, “UK” and “transportation” – both recently imported American usage – can go as well.

So, how about this? “An international smuggling syndicate that treated human beings like ‘freight’ organised the illegal transport of 35 Afghan Sikhs into Britain, a court heard. One of the migrants died in a shipping container.”

• The strangest things are developing miraculous powers of sight these days. The following was published on Thursday, in an article referring to the Union of the Scottish and English crowns, which nearly happened back in the 13th century.

“Only the death of the young Margaret of Orkney, and later suspicions about the limited independence guarantees offered by the English, saw the plan shredded.”

No, the death and the suspicions did not “see the plan shredded”; they shredded it.