Giles Coren is a god

July 30, 2008

I have worked with many good sub editors in my time. They can polish turds and make them look like works of art. I know of one who has won two Qantas Awards (Hi Mark) although they have other people’s names on them because he took their poor copy and turned it into award winning journalism.

This rant is not about those subs.

This rant is about those braindead oafs who refuse to keep up with the living, breathing force that is modern language. Those idiots who ruin good jokes because they don’t see the point to them, who destroy carefully worded columns by chopping off the end, who stick poor introductions on the front thus making a mockery of the hard work of the reporter.

But most importantly this is a rant about those wankers who cannot write headlines that pop and sizzle, who refuse to step outside the box (as it were) even for a second and who get royally grumpy when anyone dares suggest they might be a tad old fashioned. Those dorks who litter my copy with commas, who have no understanding of the work the reporter does, let alone the work they’re supposed to do, who make life more difficult for the writer, instead of making it a dream.

Giles Coren is that mad restaurant reviewer from The Times who is passionate about food and dares to try strange things. He’s also passionate about language and knows how to throw out a few choice words as well.

For example:

I wrote: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a glass of
rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling gaily to
each other, and wondering where to go for a nosh.”

It appeared as: “I can’t think of a nicer place to sit this spring over a
glass of rosé and watch the boys and girls in the street outside smiling
gaily to each other, and wondering where to go for nosh.”

There is no length issue. This is someone thinking “I’ll just remove this
indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and i know best”.

Well, you fucking don’t.

If I find the rest of his email online somewhere I’ll post it. Doesn’t seem right to post the entire rant here but frankly, Giles, you rule.

EDIT: Hattip to Rachel who found the full post on the Guardian website.

EDIT II: And to show a certain balance, here’s the link to the subs’ response. A nicely worded piece that makes some good points but misses the actual point of Giles’s rant: why take out that letter at all? And isn’t it just like a sub to miss the point?


14 Responses to “Giles Coren is a god”

  1. Rachael Says:

    In all its glory at The Guardian . I don’t do html, sorry.

  2. audent Says:

    well that worked well!

    I’ve met some subs who make changes to copy in a manner and for a reason that seems eerily similar to a tomcat pissing all over your furniture – just so you know they’re there.

  3. Mysterious Dave Mather Says:

    I missed the sexual difference between the use of ‘a nosh’ rather than ‘nosh’. and a reference to oral sex is not something I would expect in a resturant review, but I get his point. It’s his damn column.

    Interesting that the letter was published, unedited.

  4. Matt Cooney Says:

    His damn column, but it’s not his damn paper. Coren should get over himself. Having worked both sides of this particular argument, I can only say: subs spend more time dealing with bad writing than good, and writers are probably more likely to meet a bad sub than a good one. Sigh.

    Incidentally, some Sunday Times subs replied.

  5. audent Says:

    Yeah, saw the reply – which is good but still doesn’t address the issue: who took out the ‘a’ and why.

    Good subs save lives. Bad subs … well, they cost jobs.

    shudder. bad subs. ew.

    My favourite sub (ha ha) once changed ‘iwi’ to ‘kiwi’ because she’d never seen the word before. Without checking. And without remorse.

  6. Matt Cooney Says:

    Ah yes. Now I’d like to see her sub some Coren …

  7. audent Says:

    I’d like to see her accept she can’t spell/write/speak English and fuck off back whence she came but sadly that’s not likely…

    of course, she’s in PR now. A fate worse than etc.

  8. Juha Says:

    What was that joke again on JourNZ? About the journo and the sub wandering (no, not wondering) around in the desert, absolutely parched.

    They arrive at an oasis, and the journo throws himself into the water and starts to drink.

    He here’s a tinkling sound, and looks up only to see the sub pissing into the water.

    “What the fuck are you doing?” he shouts.

    “Just making it better,” the sub responds.

    It’s quite funny, but I’m wondering (no, not wandering) how the sub had enough fluid in him to engage in gratuitous micturation like that, after being dessicated in the desert.

    And, the use of he instead of she doesn’t denote gender bias on my part. Which reminds me: many years ago, a US sub took my “every man and his dog” and turned it into “every person and their dog” because the house style guide dissallowed gender specific expressions. Mmm.

  9. Juha Says:


    That’s the last time I multi-task when posting pendatic comments about subs.

  10. audent Says:



    None of which I could get in any copy I wrote for … an august publication.

    in answer to your question: the sub was able to wee like a racehorse because all subs are full of piss. Everyone knows that.

  11. Andy Says:

    I haven’t read Coren’s column, but if he has that much contempt for subs, I hope he proofreads his submissions better than he did his angry little tirade – there are lots of mistakes in it.

    Like Matt Cooney below, I’ve worked on both sides of the divide. In my time as a sub, I’ve seen far more appalling copy than scintillating brilliance.

    I’d have been inclined to make the same change the Times sub did. I have no Yiddish and I was, until reading Coren’s rant, unaware of the sexual connotation. It looks to me like a typo.

    If I knew Coren for a careful writer, I might have tried to contact him. But, in all honesty, I doubt it. And that, with the hindsight provided by Coren, would have been a mistake.

    But in my time both as a sub and a writer, I’ve seen more writers’ reputations saved by subs than tarnished. Far more. I don’t think I’ve yet heard a writer thank a sub for catching and correcting mistakes. Writers tend to overlook that – or perhaps don’t even realise they made any in the first place.

    We all make mistakes sooner or later. Even subs. Subs’ mistakes will often make it into print, which is why writers get so annoyed about them. Writers’ mistakes will rarely see print, because the sub has caught and corrected them.

  12. audent Says:

    @Andy, as have I… and as I said, I’ve worked with good subs who have saved my bacon on more than one occasion and lousy subs who have destroyed copy and made more mistakes than they’ve caught – all without once acknowledging their role in the process.

    I’ve certainly always been delighted when a sub has caught a mistake I’ve made and as an editor I insisted that the subs and reporters all sat together (as it used to be in the good old days) because that way everyone knows what’s going on with a story. That makes life a lot easier for all concerned.

    But I feel for Giles, I really do. Rightly or wrongly it’s the writer’s name that goes in the paper and it’s the writer who gets the full weight of it when things go wrong.

    At least the subs could check before making a change? Surely that’s not too much to ask?

  13. AlexM Says:

    I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you down the road!

  14. […] also Page 2, Gates on N-deal, instead read (horror of horrors), Bill Gates on N-deal. Of course, my team mates did’nt let me forget this goof-up for a long time…sundry jokes on how Microsoft inked […]

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