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Subeditors a dying breed, says new website

[6 Mar 2017] A website full of editing hints and tips has sprung up to highlight the demise of traditional subeditors on many national and local newspapers. It does this by showing, among other things, the blunders occurring in unsubbed text.

Subeditors, or subs, are journalists who spruce up, tighten and often rewrite copy submitted by reporters to make it ready for publication and understandable to the readership. Old-style subs who really care about punctuation, spelling and grammar have become an endangered species, says the website’s founder, Margaret Ashworth, a former Daily Mail sub who worked for the paper for 39 years, in an article in Communicator (, Spring 2017).

There’s also a fine piece about the changing job roles of editors, subs and writers on former journalist Hugh Dawson’s web page.

Here are a few recent examples from our own files that would/should/could have been spotted by subs.

Forgo forgotten: The Times (3 Mar 2017) reports that Marissa Mayer, Yahoo chief executive, has been deprived of her $2million cash bonus for 2016 after 1.5billion customers had their accounts hacked. ‘She has also voluntarily foregone her stock awards worth millions.’ That should be ‘forgone’, from the verb ‘forgo’, meaning to do without. To forego means to go before, as in ‘As stated in the foregoing paragraph’ and ‘foregone conclusion’.

Situations rampant: The Sunday Times (20 Nov 2016) gets into a repetitious tangle with the ‘situation’ of footballer Wayne Rooney: ‘…here was the practical reality of the 31-year-old’s wholly unsatisfactory situation as he faces what looks increasingly like a crisis situation with his club and manager…’.

Tautology 1: The Times chess column on 10 Feb 2017 says: ‘Starting tomorrow, I shall be covering the best games [from the tournament] in this column. Here is a foretaste of things to come.’ Omit ‘of things to come’.

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