Monday, October 15, 2007

Where have all the subs gone?

Reports, signed columns and sometimes editorials get published in most newpapers with bloopers that a college journal would be ashamed of. The TOI is way ahead of the others. It probably has a competent rewrite desk. The Hindu and DC seem to be competing with each other in the 'typos and erroneous constructions' department. To be fair, The Hindu's editorials and edit page articles need no blue-pencilling. But, their reports (Hyd. edition is what I get to see) are ordinary to put it mildly and badly written. If you want to see the quality of writing by some of the reporters and columnists, check out 'Education Plus' and 'Property Plus' for starters. On a column that appeared 2 weeks ago, I wrote this letter to the Readers' Editor of 'The Hindu'.

Dear Sir,
With due respect to this columnist, one Mr. Yandamoori Veerendranath, I think you need to blue-pencil his work or refer it to a rewrite desk, at the very least.

This morning's newspaper carried a column of his ('Right Turn', page 3,'Education Plus', The Hindu, Hyderabad edition, October 1, '07) under the headline,'Getting across the message with clarity'.

Ironically enough, that's precisely what seems to be missing here. The ambivalent sub-heading says-'Take on students' test of nerves'. Is the piece meant to be 'a take' on students' test of nerves? Or is the columnist asking teachers to whom the column is addressed, to take on students' test of nerves, awkward as the construction may sound?

I'd like to cite a few more examples here from this column to support what I said in my opening sentence--that your rewrite desk (I hope Hyderabad has one) needs to come into play here.

1. "No student would confess his incapacity or poor standard of understanding before others." (While the sentence may pass muster in grammatical terms, it's a very clumsily structured one).

2. "Impress them that you are a person with whom they can be comfortable and confide in. Earn the right to offer advice and never advise unless it is sought." ('Impress them' is bad enough, made worse by the confusion between the use of 'advice' the noun and 'advise' the verb, as illustrated by 'never advise unless it is sought').

3."Understand the problem from their point of view, age and level of emotion. While giving an advice, add as many illustrations as possible." (Trying to understand a problem from someone's 'level of emotion' is a minor feat in itself, but on top of it all, if you need to give 'an advice' then you need 'some' or 'a piece' or 'a bit' of it yourself).

4. "More imporantly, never criticise a student before others, particularly opposite sex." (oh oh!--'...'before others, particularly opposite sex'? )

5. "Speak with expression, not monotonically." (As a college teacher handling English, I've been trying all morning to do this--to 'speak with expression and not monotonically." It isn't easy--I can tell you that. It's compounded by the fact that I'm not even familiar with 'monotonically', unless it's a special medicine meant to help us gain more 'vocal range', which the erudite columnist asks us to use. I don't think he meant 'monotonous').

Lastly, I have a question:
"If I want to give an advice, write, instead of speak with expression and not monotonically, without criticizing students, particularly before opposite sex, impress them that I am a person with whom they can be comfortable and confide in, while confessing my incapacity and understanding a problem from their level of emotion, can I write a column for 'The Hindu', Hyderabad?"

Yours truly,

PS. No prizes for guessing what the Readers' Editor may have done--turned his snooty nose north of Anna Salai--the column continues to appear under the caption, 'Take on Students' Test of Nerves'. Who are we to ask whether 'take' is the columnist's 'take' on the students' test of nerves or whether 'take on' is a phrasal verb? Sample this from the same column in today's newspaper:

"After completing education, keep yourself busy even while searching for a job for if you don't, then you start considering yourself a waste and slowly get depressed.

Well, well, well, when a 'national newspaper' ends this with an avoidable typo (let's hope it's nothing more)--"The more you ask yourself, the more it helps your grow"...it's time to ask a few not too pleasant questions.

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