Mea Culpa: Was the tache a little rash?

Questions of usage and style in last week’s Independent

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Saturday 04 January 2020 13:48
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Lip service: Harry Harris, US ambassador to South Korea
Lip service: Harry Harris, US ambassador to South Korea

We used the dead phrase “weather conditions” in a front-page news story in the Daily Edition last week. “Australia is bracing itself for a new wave of dangerous weather conditions in the next two days,” the story concluded. After the action and drama of the first half of the sentence the clunkiness rang like a cracked bell. And how can you have a wave of conditions?

The longer version of the story inside got it right: “Australia braced itself for a fresh wave of dangerous weather in the next two days, with high winds and temperatures again set to reach 45C or more.” A better way of shortening that to fit on the front page would have been: “Australia is bracing itself for a new wave of winds and high temperatures in the next two days.”

Basis point: We used another deadening phrase in an article about Parkinson’s disease, in which we said: “Around 145,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease on an annual basis.” As Mick O’Hare pointed out, “every year” would be so much better.

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