Still on contracting long winding expressions or words to ease comprehension, especially for the broadcast media, we have several options to choose from. As earlier explained, the estimated vocabulary of the average reader is about seven thousand, five hundred words; some even put it at between ten to eighteen thousand words for those who are well grounded in the language of mass communication. But research shows that it could even be less than that for the Nigerian and other English speaking people, particularly so for those who English is second language. And so, we are encouraged to express our ideas or opinions in short familiar words with greater simplicity and directness. For the journalist, writer or the reporter the use of active voice not passive voice is the newsroom golden rule. Active words save time and it is livelier in conveying ideas or opinions. The expression, ‘man bites dog,’ for example, is shorter, livelier and impactful than to write or speak, ‘a dog was bitten by a man.’ The lesson here is that one should not waste time over mere phrases.
Say it as it is. Cut out every superfluous or inessential word that would not add to the beauty of what one wants say. This brings us to the issue of grammar and how to engage them to get the attention of the reader or viewing publics. It boils down to craftsmanship and ability of the writer to penetrate the audience using simple, easy to grasp and straightforward expression. Rather than indulge in bombastic, high sounding words or phrases, like some of our politicians do, choose the simple and less complex words to tell your story. That way you would be understood and better appreciated. Note that long winding and big grammar, so to speak, alienates the audience and puts them off. Try to write simple sentences and this can only be made possible by employing the one, two to three-syllable words to engage the reader and get him or her on your side. Again, I want to use this forum to remind our followers that flowery language and difficult words or phrases would never aid mass communication, but that they are meant for a narrow audience. Jargons or what I may call the language of the medical doctor, architect, the lawyer and accountant for instance, are designed for a small audience.
It is for the writer, journalist or the reporter to break them down, interpret it to the understanding of the masses. In doing this, the writer bridges the gap that could have indeed, put the reading publics at a disadvantage. According to the experts, the journalist, the reporter is expected to ‘know one thing about everything and everything about one thing.’ In other words, since he or she is occupying what is commonly referred to as the ‘fourth estate of the realms,’ he or she is expected to have a thorough knowledge of issues relating to politics, culture, energy, law, local and international occurrences, the arts and sciences. Now to the lesson of the moment, sample these statements and try to reduce them to one, two to three-syllable, imagine how you would sound better and straight to the point. Words such as ‘less expensive,’ ‘local authority,’ ‘made an approach to,’ ‘made good their escape,’ ‘manufacture,’ as explained by the masters and purists of the language, are not only mouthful, but time wasting. Simply write, so they emphasized, ‘cheap, affordable’ for ‘less expensive,’ ‘council, local government’ for ‘local authority,’ ‘made an approach to’ for ‘approached, moved on to,’ ‘made good their escape’ for ‘escaped, disappeared,’ ‘manufacture’ for ‘make, produce.
’ Take your time to find out, the shorter versions and most preferred are not more than one, two to three-syllable words. That is simplicity and directness. Similarly, words such as ‘materialise,’ ‘maximum,’ ‘merchandise,’ ‘minimum,’ ‘miraculous,’ should also be given the same treatment. Rather than speak or write the word ‘materialise,’ go for the simple one which is shorter, ‘happen/ come about/appear.’ ‘Maximum,’ prefers ‘greatest/most.’ Stay with ‘goods’ and shun ‘merchandise,’ ‘minimum,’ prefers ‘least/smallest,’ and ‘miraculous,’ better write or speak ‘surprising/unexpected.’ The list is inexhaustible.