“Write the truest sentence that you know.”
Nigerians love to talk.
Or rather, we love to hear the sounds of our own voices.
So we waffle on.
First, let’s realise that we tend to sprout lengthy, often meaningless utterances in public. A more effective method to garner support and influence people is to aim for simplicity, brevity and clarity in all our communications, beginning with the way we speak.
To speak convincingly in public, we should imitate what we admire the most from others—such as how to use presence, pitch, tone and pauses—to create impact and connect with our audiences.
Cases in point:
1) What is good for the goose is good for the gander. (Nigerian English)
What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. (Standard idiom)
The soup should be well cooked/cooked thoroughly. (Standard English)
3) “You’re not going to work today?”
“No”/”No I’m not going”. (Standard English)
4) “Please borrow me some money”. (Nigerian English)
And so it continues.
Other problems in writing are not adhering to basic subject-verb agreement; wrong word choice when choosing synonyms, (words having similar meanings e.g. big/colossal, laughable/absurd); and confusion with homonyms, (words sounding the same but having different meanings e.g. son/sun, lunch/launch), etc.
Let’s not even get into the misuse of certain punctuation marks – with the comma (,), colon (:), semi-colon (;) and the apostrophe (‘), being the most abused.
Then there’s the issue of excessive capitalisation. This is the single most prevalent grammatical error in Nigeria today. We see it in emails and newspapers; in formal documents and contracts; in content online; on vans/trucks/buses; and on television.
It’s really a scourge.
Some examples of unnecessary capitalisation are underlined below:
Our company, ABCD Limited, is into Trading, Manufacturing, Banking…
We are Resellers of imported merchandise…
During my coaching sessions, I’ve noticed with concern, the excessive use of capitalisation in the work of different MBA participants – from the younger, full-time MBA students, to the senior professionals in the executive batches.
Given that our talent pool of such highly educated and well-rounded professionals reflect the society, I’ve come to realise that unfortunately, the root of our weak writing is twofold:
Be honest. When was the last time you read a good novel, short story or a poem? How about reading classics such as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice; Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities; Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo; Chinua Achebe’s renowned Things Fall Apart; or any of the numerous plays, poems and novels penned by the first African Nobel laureate in literature, Wole Soyinka?
We need to read to feed our brains, to expand our vocabulary, and to sharpen our writing.
B) Laziness/unwillingness to brush up on grammar and to practise writing
Realistically, we would not remember all the grammatical rules we memorised at school. Furthermore, language evolves over time and as professionals, we must keep abreast of the changes.
Regretfully, we’ve become lazy and/or unwilling to do the work. Not only do we need to register for lessons in English grammar, we should also practise business writing at every opportunity we get: at work, in business circles, and even during our leisure. Let’s practise in season and out of season. It’s only by consistent practice that we steadily improve.
It’s that simple.
We should sign up for business writing training and use tips given on how to improve our writing chops. Let’s also develop a habit of reading good content to increase our knowledge of the English language.
The Lagos Business School offers MBA programmes and executive courses for professionals at different stages in their careers. A useful module in both the full-time MBA and Executive MBA courses, Management Communications, offers effective support and coaching for oral and written communications. It’s worth some consideration.
There’s evidently a crisis of poor communication in this country. Nevertheless, this crisis can be contained, and with the right strategy, solved…only if we become open to change.
The good news is that Nigeria is blessed with ample intellectual capital and the steely resolve of its citizens. These are the reasons we excel in various fields abroad.
Therefore, despite our shortcomings in oral and written communication, let’s strive to improve and to be consistent in our efforts.
We owe it to ourselves to become the best versions we can be.
We should thus not tarry in our progress.
Who’s with me?
*The adapted post below was published by the reputable BusinessDay Nigeria in 2018.
|Screenshot of the article published online and in print by BusinessDay Nigeria on May 24, 2018. The post was revised for the media audience.|
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N.B- First image courtesy of Criminalatt; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Master Isolated Images; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third and fourth images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net.