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With a professional background in publishing and investment research, I know the vital importance of clarity and accuracy in written language. Now I translate and edit for money. This blog highlights cases where errors cost embarrassment, ridicule or cash. The motto is, in the wise words of Robert Townsend: \"If you don\'t do it with excellence, don\'t do it at all! Because if it\'s not excellent, it won\'t be profitable or fun, and if you\'re not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing there?\" Email: webwrights [at]

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”

My other paper is The Financial Times. The reason that it never features in these columns is that, by contrast with the (quite possibly non-existent) sub-editors of The Times, the FT‘s subbies are excellent. The FT is a paper of record for finance and business, and mistakes are therefore rare.

When a mistake is made, however, it is likely to be a lulu. It will be something as blindingly obvious as the (possibly apocryphal) architect who forgot to include a staircase in his design.

And so it was this very morning, top-right in the masthead on the front page. Janan Ganesh is the paper’s established and very readable political correspondent and, incidentally, author of a fine biography of George Osborne.

Janan Ganesh, that is, and not …


Sorry about the distributor’s sticker.  The whole thing reads: “Memo to Osborne: time for flinty candour”. The FT awaits the revenge of the elephant god.

Thanks to George Eaton and Guido Fawkes for this.


Getting all Poe-faced

There is a danger that ‘corrective’ blogs such as this could deteriorate into extended, self-righteous sneers at the perceived faults of others. So, just for a refreshing change, here without any finger-wagging is a neat piece of literary allusion from the University of Virginia:



Is that a piece of the peace, or the whole peace?


The offspring of an intriguing ‘ménage à trois’

According to the BBC website today: “Figures designed by children of Stephen Fry, Lord Nelson and Edith Cavell have been unveiled in Norwich.”


[1] The rascals have changed the wording. This is the way it was:


[2] I have just been challenged to word it differently. Well, take your pick:
Children have designed figures of Stephen Fry, Lord Nelson and Edith Cavell, which have been unveiled in Norwich.
Figures of Stephen Fry, Lord Nelson and Edith Cavell, designed by children, have been unveiled in Norwich. [which they used]
Figures have been unveiled in Norwich of Stephen Fry, Lord Nelson and Edith Cavell, designed by children.
Figures designed by children – of Stephen Fry, Lord Nelson and Edith Cavell – have been unveiled in Norwich.
Figures unveiled in Norwich – of Stephen Fry, Lord Nelson and Edith Cavell – have been designed by children.

All of them forbear from any imputations of inter-generational immorality and, above all, any disgraceful suggestion that Stephen Fry might be a heterosexual.

Dyxlesia lures, K.O

The world will have seen the chilling footage of the aftermath of the killing of an off-duty soldier on a London street on Wednesday. You may not, however, have heard of the knee-jerk protests later that day by the unappealing English Defence League (EDL), which is what in the Press passes for a ‘far right’ organisation in gentle little England. Here are some of the League’s handsome lads; ladies, just look at those finely-chiselled cheekbones:


There was no more than a lot of shouting and posturing, and a very few of the more knuckle-headed of them ‘attacked’ a couple of mosques by daubing slogans on them. It was all pretty tame stuff; certainly compared to what Stockholm’s been going through this week.

Yesterday, there was a barrage of buttock-brained tweets aimed at one of our largest energy supply companies, Electricité de France. To avoid anyone taking exception to buying from the French, the company is known over here as the more anonymous EDF.

Yes, you are already there. They had purportedly confused EDF with EDL. To their credit, EDF responded with commendable patience:


Although you can see that Keri, and maybe each of them, was simply having a bit of innocent fun:


Despite its commercial ambitions, EDF is not an organisation which, like the EDL’s website, calls for “the whole world to unite against a truly Global Jihad”.

Whether or not it was a joke, this affair did remind me of a similar, but definitely genuine, confusion of initials from the Stone Age; that is to say, over 20 years ago before the world went online.

BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) was an international bank run by a bunch of crooks and charlatans. It stole money from savers, and ‘recycled’ it back to its founders and shareholders. It also engaged in massive money-laundering for the world’s criminals and terrorists, including Abu Nidal. In early 1991, it was belatedly shut down and in due course a handful of the most egregiously guilty men were convicted and sentenced to prison.

BICC (British Insulated Callender’s Cables) was a cable manufacturer and construction company. Its company switchboard and, eventually, even its 1991 Annual General Meeting, was besieged by confused, mainly elderly, shareholders who had held a handful of shares for decades. A colleague of mine was there, and he gleefully reported back on proceedings. Some of the shareholders had dimly recalled having a share certificate (remember them?) from BICC  and, having heard a similar-sounding company pilloried in the media,  had turned up for the first time in their long lives to an AGM to express their misguided outrage.

The directors had to deal with a succession of increasingly angry questions from the floor, from confused old biddies of both sexes. Every time they answered them patiently and politely, yet another deaf and/or dim-witted pensioner would stand up to say much the same thing, but ever more heatedly because they thought that BICC’s directors were being evasive. The meeting went on for hours past its allotted time.


The Daily Mash nails the EDL rather nicely here.


They will pay you to take it away



Where there’s a will, there’s a won’t