common errors in English

Crash blossoms – use sparingly

Are you familiar with the term crash blossom? It refers to those unfortunate headlines that, whilst perhaps being witty and succint, are also terminally ambiguous. Things like Prime Minister defends Bill when what he’s defending is a piece of legislation, not some poor chap christened William; or Red tape holds up new bridge, where the red tape is bureaucracy, and the hold up is a delay, not a physical lifting upwards.

I saw one in the British press this morning – Man flies to South Africa to help murder police. No, it’s not, as you might be forgiven for thinking, that a British chap is off to lend a helping hand to South African vigilantes, but rather that the husband of a woman tragically murdered whilst on her honeymoon, is to return to South Africa to help police investigating the crime to find out what happened.

Crash blossoms can be funny and entertaining, and as a former newspaper sub editor, I used to use them all the time, but when the topic is so serious and so horrific, I really do think they should be avoided.

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Sharon Creese

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