Subbing the world

Righting copywriting wrongs, one word at a time

A poetic plea for human communication

One of my aims in this blog is to highlight the obtuse, jargonistic, obfuscatory language so often used by business and Government.

This sort of language is annoying and off-putting in commercial writing. When you’re a public authority, and your audience is one trying to deal with complex and sensitive issues, it verges on the unethical.

Thanks to the wonder of Twitter (specifically writer @davidbdale), I came across this lovely poem by poet Elspeth Murray, about communications aimed at those dealing with mental health.

I couldn’t have said it better (or even anything like as well) myself.


Filed under: General chat, Good words

Born of frustration

Like so many blogs, this one is essentially about me getting something off my chest.

I’m a freelance copywriter, so I care about words. Quite possibly too much. Because all around me are examples of horrible writing. Often these are small, apparently trivial crimes. But together they create a fog of ugliness and inaccuracy that I can’t help but think is doing some damage. (Especially the ugliness.) Perhaps it’s a symptom of having kids, and seeing bad language on things like cereal packs, or this menu at Pizza Express:

It’s a bad iPhone shot, but you can see the rogue apostrophe in “photo’s”. (Why not “drawings”? Let’s not even get into that one.) Printed material, I believe, carries a certain authority. Kids will learn from it – and adults too. We have a right to expect ‘official’ communications, from council leaflets to chocolate wrappers or airport signs, to be fundamentally correct.

Not grammatically pedantic – I’m a copywriter, I know that human communication isn’t grammatically pedantic. But apostrophes, spelling – these should be done properly.

And so should tone of voice. Often, writing is acceptable on a technical level, and bloody horrible on a tonal level.

This blog will look for examples of all these maladies, from the most high-profile to the most apparently trivial (which can be the most insidious). And I’ll suggest remedies as much as I can.

I’d very much like some submissions, too. If you have an example of copy that needs subbing, please drop me a line: mike [at] It would be great to exhibit others’ obsessive tendencies as well as my own.

Filed under: General chat

Let's start with this blog. The name's just not right, is it? It's much wider than sub-editing. It's just as often about words that are technically correct, but tonally all over the place. Oh well. Anyway, please feel free to send me your own examples of horrible copy (but please, no more erroneous apostrophes): mike[at]


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