Archive for April, 2012
We are saddened, outraged and horrified at the spate of Boko Haram attacks across Northern Nigeria, and commiserate with all Nigerians and others who have lost loved ones or seen them suffer injury. We also call on our government to DO SOMETHING NOW to end the violence.
Reading the horrific reports on one Nigerian news website after another, we understand the anger and frustration expressed in many readers’ comments, but are very troubled by those that are simply hateful, toxic or inciting violence. Comments attacking Boko Haram members for their religion, their ethnicity, their region of origin etc., are not constructive at all. They serve no purpose except to fan the flames of hate, division and distrust between Nigerians, which we so desperately need to quell. Boko Haram do not, in any case, represent Muslims or Northerners. They are an extremist group.
Likewise, comments inciting other Nigerians to take up arms in response to the terrorist threat are not productive. Violent revenge will only beget more violence and suffering. Rather, we need to think and talk about how we can break the cycle – not an easy challenge, by any means. We need to watch that if our words express criticism, anger, concern and fear, they do so without devolving into hate and violence.
We also believe the online editors of national newspapers have a responsibility to better moderate the comments posted on their sites to ensure that they are not effectively providing a platform for destructive hate speech. It is increasingly standard practice for online newspapers to have policies about the kinds of reader comments they will and will not allow on their sites, typically excluding anything that is hateful, advocating violence or attacking individuals or groups.
- Language is evolving fast and it’s hard to keep up: Some words that used to be hyphenated are now used so frequently that the hyphens have been officially dropped, like email. While teachers used to warn NEVER to start a sentence with conjunctions such as “and” or “but,” the need for conciseness has now won most of them over. Why start a sentence with “therefore” when we could just say “so”? Editors keep abreast with the changing rules of language, so you can focus on the substance of what you are trying to say.
- Four eyes are better than two: We are not talking about glasses here… Having someone else read over what you’ve written brings a fresh pair of eyes to your piece. When you write a piece and read over it several times, it’s quite easy to miss errors and vagueness. An editor will often be quicker to spot spelling and other mistakes, or point out parts of your text that are unclear.
- Change your writing, change your life: In this age of text- and chat-messaging, emails and social networking, people will often read what you’ve written before they meet you in person. Increasingly, your writing rather than your appearance or voice may lead others to form an idea of the type of person you are: Professional or sloppy? Uptight or funny? Getting an editor to look at your writing can give you that little something-something, that je ne sais quoi, to help make a good first impression!
- The written word lives: Long after you’ve put down your pen, your words live on for new audiences to read and assess. Beyond avoiding mistakes, you also want your writing to move more and more people to action. The written word is a powerful tool; with an editor, you ensure your words are working for, not against, you.
- Editing is a skill: People have never had to write as much at work as they do now, from emails to social media posts. While writing is a general skill that we all need, an editor is a professional trained to work with words. Editors look out for three basic things: clarity, conciseness and compelling text. As basic as these are, we often taken them for granted when we write. Editors take your writing from just getting the job done, to getting the job done well!
Have you struggled to impress with your words? We’d love to hear about it! Post a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
As @jeremyweate tweeted yesterday, what is with the use of “would” in Nigeria to describe events that “will” happen, like the news that “the President would go on leave”? Will and would are not interchangeable and they lead to different conclusions, so we need to be clear about how to use them properly.
Will refers to what we know or believe will happen in the future. This could be a fact, like “it will be hot this afternoon,” or a belief, like “it will be a good year for our business.” It could also be a promise or statement of intent, like “I will come and visit you tomorrow.”
We also use will to refer to a “real” future conditional, that is something we expect will definitely happen in the future if something else does. In these cases, we use words like “if,”“when” or “unless” to express conditionality. For instance, “if you work hard, you will pass your exam” or “when you visit, I will show you the pictures.”
Would is the past tense of will, so we use it to refer to what we believed would happen, what we used to promise, intend or do in the past. For instance, “at the start of 2011, we knew it would be a good year for our business” or “when we lived on the same street, I would visit her every afternoon.”
We can also use would to refer to a future conditional. This is the sense in which the Nigerian press often uses it incorrectly. As a future conditional, would refers to scenarios that are only hypothetical or possible, not definite or expected. For instance, “I would buy a new car if I had the money” or “it would be nice to go on holiday this year.” Saying it would rather than will be nice to go on holiday means that you currently do not have plans to; you are only imagining how great it would be.
So if we read in the press that “the President would go on leave,” this information is ambiguous and incomplete. Nigerians are left guessing if the President’s leave is not definite but conditional on something or the other, or if it is in fact already planned, meaning he will go on leave.
Meanwhile, all this said, the news today is that the President is actually already on leave… Let’s hope he comes back ready to tackle Nigeria’s challenges!