The oddity and eccentricity associated with the English language; the language spoken by billions of people around the world may have accounted for the spelling and grammatical blunders sometimes committed by writers. It may interest you to know that no one is exempted from making mistakes, from the journalist whose chores is to report events and occurrences to the university lecturer. Contextual errors and misuse of words are the albatross they have to cope with as communicators of ideas, opinions and intellectuals. Little wonder, to become a successful writer or speaker one needs a first, second, and even a third eye as readers to scrutinize one’s work to ensure accuracy by eliminating those embarrassing mix-ups that could be spotted here and there.
Although the author owns and takes responsibility thereafter. Those little words that we toyed with and considered as insignificant could make or mess up one’s thought process. It could even ridicule one’s piece or write up if not carefully and diligently handled, or taken for granted. As a supervisor of students and a reader, I encounter several of these elementary errors coming from what I would describe as carelessness and it matters-not attitude shown by some writers who jettison or ignore the newsroom advice to double check before rushing to the press in order to beat the deadline. Among the family of the one-syllable words that appears to confound or surprise the writers and consumers of information are the tiny but almighty one-syllable words such as, ‘suit’ and ‘suite’, that pops up now and then when one is thinking of putting on the best materials and jacket to match for the occasion; and longing for a cozy place to pass the night on transit to attend a wedding ceremony in Calabar, the Canaan city. The verb form of it is ‘suit’; something that fits one, suited, suiting, by choice. To be acceptable, or what is required by someone, to be appropriate to, in harmony with, or attracting to someone or something, the reference books explain.
The noun ‘suit’, pronounced ‘su;t’ is said to be a set of clothes designed to be worn together, usually made from the same material and which consists of a jacket and either trousers or a skirt and sometimes a waistcoat. The Chambers 21st Century dictionary also says, it could be an outfit worn on specified occasions or for specified activity. On the other hand, the noun ‘suite’, pronounced ‘swi; t’ (sweet), is a set of rooms forming a self-contained unit within a larger building, it could be a presidential suite, a royal suite or bridal suite, for example. And so, we have leisure places that are commonly named ‘Hotel and Suites’ scattered across Lagos and other major cities in Nigeria. Why the frequent mix-up of these words that looks almost identical but different in context? Simply because most times we are carried away by the zeal to beat time, or that we are just ignorant about the fact that they mean different things. Spelling mistakes could also be an inhibiting factor that kills the dream of perfection even though inside us we do not set out to falter.
Again, it calls for vigilance on the part of the writer to heed to the warning that, when in doubt, leave out and simply go for the familiar words or expression people are in tune with. The dictionary, encyclopedia and relevant reference books are in place and handy to guide us in the right direction. Make use of them, and don’t assume you know it all; that could spell doom, especially for those who English is second language. Even the prolific writer suffers from the inertia of incorrect spellings; the only way to remedy or prevent them is to keep a dictionary close by to allay fears of wrong spellings. The reference materials such as the dictionary may not help or teach the writer, journalist or reporter how to weave words together to make sense, but it is an invaluable guide or access in the choice of words that tell and colour one’s story and argument, Just as the English Thesaurus deals with words that are synonymous to avoid the monotony of recycling words.
Still talking about reference books that could help us master the language, the English legend and phonetician, Daniel Jones who lived between 1881 and 1967 bequeathed to the broadcast industry in particular, a masterpiece; a book on the correct pronunciation of the English words, popularly called ‘Daniel Jones’, pointing to the name of the author. Any broadcast outfit without this compelling book conspicuously displayed on the newscasters’ or editors’ desk can be compared to a journalist going to an assignment without his or her notepad and pen. This is what a standard reference material could do for us as professional writers and journalists, and I think it also applies to other professions such as medicine, law, engineering, even as university dons, we need them to guide us.