Short cuts

It’s funny how our brains work when we are immersed in something; we sometimes resort to a kind of ‘shorthand’ which we optimistically hope will communicate an idea or information succinctly to our readers. I come across this often in my proofreading work. The author - usually an experienced freelance journalist if they are writing one of the National Trust guidebooks - will use a term or condense a sentence that they obviously hope will ‘say it all’. My role is tactfully to point out that, although one may guess what they are getting at, they have not explained fully or, in some cases, their bid for concision has taken them completely off track. A recent example was an author who referred to the Duke of Monmouth (1649-85), Charles II’s illegitimate son, as ‘The Great Pretender’. Monmouth was indeed a pretender to the throne and was executed for his trouble but, after an extensive Google session, I establish that he is not and never has been known as The Great Pretender - our beloved Freddie Mercury remains the only claimant to the title. But one can quite understand how it happened. It's a good 'summarising' title for a flamboyant historical figure like Monmouth. It must have been sloshing around in the author's memory and just came conveniently to hand when she or he needed it. Perhaps I should have left it in - Freddie would have been pleased.

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