Mea Culpa: have another look into this inquiry

An inquiry into, and a review of, questions of style and language in last week’s Independent, by John Rentoul

Saturday 10 July 2021 21:45
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<p>Former health secretary Matt Hancock resigned in June after breaking his government’s own coronavirus restrictions</p>

Former health secretary Matt Hancock resigned in June after breaking his government’s own coronavirus restrictions

One of our best innovations since going online-only five years ago was to preserve the look of the print edition for subscribers, and in particular our front page, which still features the vertical masthead down the left side. Anyway, I fear we spoiled the elegance of the front page with a clumsy headline last weekend: “Review into maternity safety across the NHS.” I think you have a “review of” something or an “inquiry into” it.

Battered and spurned: In an article about the recriminations after the Batley and Spen by-election, we reported: “Conservative MPs have blamed Matt Hancock for the party’s failure to win a key by-election, which was lost by less than 350 votes.” As Philip Nalpanis pointed out, that should be “fewer”, but, as he also pointed out, we could just have given the actual number, which was 323.

Take up arms against: In a comment article which also mentioned the former health secretary, we tripped up on another pedants’ favourite: “Full of beans Hancock may be, but several MPs speak of an arrogance that might mitigate against a rapid return.” Thanks to Bernard Theobald for drawing my attention to this teachable moment. To “mitigate” means to make something less severe or painful, from the Latin mitigare, “to make mild”. We meant “militate”, which is almost always used with “against”, and means make something difficult, from the Latin militare, “to serve as a soldier” or to take military action.

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