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Paper Monitor

11:19 UK time, Thursday, 27 September 2007

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press?

Paper Monitor really is in a mood for some politics, as regular readers might be able to tell. Here are some more choice phrases from sketchwriters watching the conference conversation between Gordon Brown and Mariella Frostrup yesterday.

Simon Carr in the Independent: "He's not very sketch-friendly, Gordon... He really is a world-class bore. It's not clear how many people agree with this proposition, or how much of a drawback it might be. He is certainly very popular with his people in the hall, he has a moral vision, he wants the best for us all but for (I'd guess) 38 per cent of the population, watching concrete set will have more narrative interest than seeing him answers questions."

Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail: "Mr Cameron... might have made it all rather more suave and self-deprecating. He might at least have left women thinking, 'Hmmn, nice haircut.' Mr Brown just left them thinking, 'Zzzzzzz.'"

Ann Treneman in the Times: "It is an unlikely combination although... they are both sex symbols now. Mariella Frostrup because of her deep growly voice and flirtatious manner and Gordon Brown because of his deep growly voice and his plans for world economic reform."

Matthew Engel in the FT: "[Y]ou know who Mariella Frostrup is. She's the Swedish foreign minister, isn't she? That or the latest flavour from Ben & Jerry's... Mr Brown lapsed into blah-speak, clicked the cut and paste buttons inside his head and recited paragraphs from past speeches. Then Miss Frostrup switched to email questions. It is a little hard to imagine who sent these in, but I get emailed questions (if only from penis extension practitioners and the widows of Nigerian dictators) so presumably prime ministers get a few more."

Something all those selections have in common is that Paper Monitor has edited them for brevity and effect. This is not some new BBC scandal, since that editing has been signalled quite clearly by the use of ellipses marks. (Dot dot dot, in other words.)

But reading a Guardian story about what the former attorney general Lord Goldsmith is doing next, one comes upon this sentence. "In a statement, Martin Frederic Evans, presiding partner of the firm, said: 'His unique experience and reputation as one of the UK's most prominent... QCs, and as the top government law officer will be a distinctive asset to our international offering, both in Europe and globally."

Now those dots were not inserted by Paper Monitor. One assumes the Guardian put them in. But what if Mr Evans had paused for dramatic effect before saying what Lord Goldsmith was prominent at? How would that have been shown?

Punctuation experts, your answers via the comment form below please.


  1. At 12:04 PM on 27 Sep 2007, keith fleming wrote:

    Standard academic practice (as I was taught it, anyway) is that ellipses are marked in square brackets [...] to indicate an intervention, such as truncation, (just as [sic] ought to be in square brackets as well), while ellipses as they appear in the original have no brackets.

    This is not how things work in NewspaperLand, but, as I said, is how they work in academia.

  2. At 12:06 PM on 27 Sep 2007, Jo wrote:

    The answer is sadly not very exciting. A quick Google of the quote finds the same story covered by Yahoo, who give the full quotation: he is "one of the UK's most prominent commercial litigation QCs."

  3. At 12:29 PM on 27 Sep 2007, Anna wrote:

    When directly quoting someone, three dots indicate that words have been skipped.

    Basically, it's a sneaky way of taking words out of context, whilst relying on readers not to know what that means.

    Come on, this is basic journalism!

  4. At 01:08 PM on 27 Sep 2007, Paper Monitor wrote:

    Thank you Anna, yes, basic journalism was a course Paper Monitor missed. But I fear you rather miss the point which is how to differentiate between editing a speaker and expressing a dramatic pause they might have used in their speech. Keith's suggestion of square brackets is satisfying intellectually, but as he indicates will probably have little traction with HMP.

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