Thursday May 24, 2018
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Edit with a KISS!

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credit: www.mindfultitle.org
credit: www.mindfultitle.org

By Akash Shukla

The maxim for editing can be explained with no better acronym— KISS. The ‘Keep it Short and Simple’ mantra helps the editors and reporters alike to wade through the quagmire of trash writing and long-winded write-ups.

Some of the funny quips from the reporter’s domain are as follows…

  • The case would be cracked in transparent manner and the culprits would be dealt with iron hands.
  • The instructions of Chief Development Officer to provide about 50,000 Above Poetry Line(APL) ration cards and Below Poverty Line ration…
  • As pleasurable winter is going on that make my mood full of Masti.
  • I feel like lingering with my boyfriend my parents are familiar with but because of interference of civic and police I am petrified of coming in limelight.
  • The thieves not even burgled the house of jeweler, but they also made picnic there as well. They prepared edibles and relished it with the chilled cold drinks that were kept inside the refrigerator, which indicated that the city’s law and order situation has gone worsened.
  • While Pooja turned into a fire-ball, Mehtab fled from the spot.

The above-stated examples reflect the obnoxious yet the obvious language disparity when a person chooses to codify a Hindi Muhavara into an English idiom. Reporters tend to transliterate one language to the other.

It is a common misnomer that grammar of one language (Hindi) would adopt the rules of the other (English).

While aspiring print journalists penned the K-word for further reference, the media educationist spoke of hand-subbing in the line of fire, popularly known as the ‘deadline’. What people don’t know is that rapid editing becomes a far cry when errors pertaining to word power and misplaced usage eat their way into the editor’s efficiency.

Have a look at some of the most common gaffes that an Indian editor grapples with on a daily basis…

  • The Panchayati Raj department has decided to lighten the streets in the villages by installing solar streetlights in the district villages.
  • Health department of Kanpur Municipal Corporation collected food samples from half-a-dozen hotels to ensure adulteration on Monday.
  • He claimed that the perpetrators sketches must be made with the help of Chote Lal who was a lonely eyewitness.
  • Not only people but the health department staff are living in panicky
  • ….makes one believe that this year the event would prove to be a rocking block-bluster

All of these anecdotes are a good read for an English learner but they are hazardous for the editorial desk when the work is being taken care of at the eleventh hour. Reporters and editors share a symbiotic work balance. It is equally ridiculous for both to imagine their work survival without the other.

Poor constructions and jumbled facts predominate reports of various beats, namely, crime, business and page three. A learner can get a hang of it in bits by going through these examples:

  • Taking whiskey, vodka, beer, rum, gin, vine, champagne and even tequila shots is very common in girls and would certainly leave the boys turn their heads.
  • The flooding Short Messages in mobile and emails in inboxes dwindle the sale of greetings.
  • The network congestion throw cold water on the emotions of several people.
  • All the station In-charges in the city are making gruelling efforts to praise the god and goddess by offering them lucrative offers to avert the chance of the first FIR lodged at their respective police stations on the new year 2010.

From medical exigency to financial emergency, from on-the-border reportage to on-the-line interview, layer by layer subbing is the master key to jimmy all locks.

Since the speaker wasn’t a dullard, he didn’t disappoint with a drab harangue. He addressed the active-passive issue in the formation of headlines for English newspapers in India. Shooting instances from his mainstream days, he summarized and spoke of:

Headline 1: Cops canecharge mob

Headline 2: Irate mob batoncharged

Semantically, there is no difference between the two. But syntactically, headline 1 pegs the importance on the word ‘cops’ while the headline 2 treats the same news differently and gives the same importance to a different word ‘Irate mob’. Headline 1 being active in nature speaks of cops in action in present tense, therefore, highlights immediacy. Headline 2 is the passivised form of headline 1. It speaks of an occurred event, a thing of recent past. Headline 2 weakens the event of occurrence.

credit: mywebtext.com
credit: mywebtext.com

Another example:

Headline 1: Farmer killed in dispute

Headline 2: Dispute causes farmer’s death

Though headline 1 employs ‘ed’ form or the past form of the main verb ‘kill’ yet it is better if compared to headline 2 because it fits in less space and serves the purpose if there is space crunch on the page. Although both headers employ four words to bring out the meaning, headline one does it in a more dignified and concise manner.

“None of the days are same. No two stories have the same treatment. And, no two mood swings of the boss are easy to survive. Everyone presses the panic button when an idea fails to fall in place on the page layout. The top bosses are harried if they can’t keep the ‘sacred cow’ out of the harm’s way. A dexterous sub-editor edits his way out of these pot-boilers,” said the insightful media educationist.

For the first time, we realized that even 50 shades of malevolence were possible. The K-rule in editing not only helps in the removal of chaff from grain but it also helps us with the discipline of language in such a way that we must not write to impress but to inspire.

Since language is arbitrary and we twist it to our purpose for desired meanings, the one who reaches the closest to the latter is called ‘the gifted’ or ‘a good copy editor’. But all this dexterity or bliss from God cannot rule out the perennial and reinforced use of KISS mantra. How else can one connect and shape the views of the layman in the impoverished democracy of India? Keeping it short and simple helps the reader with easy and prolonged retention.

Simplicity is not only the charm of life but also of those with meagre livelihood. We had a task at hand to prod the young and old and ask them about the most important news that they had encountered in their life till now. Babri Demolition, Sikh Riots, and Aarushi Murder Case were some of the most voiced and strongly-opined answers. All and sundry claimed that since the coverage was not jargonistic, they remember a lot about it. Some of them even uttered headlines which were printed a decade ago.

The amusement that the activity drew does not seek refuge in the language but in the treatment of language instead. The KISS factor determines not only the language but also prunes and pegs the view that needs to be tabled everyday for the common man’s reading.

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Governor humiliated for addressing in Hindi

  Incidentally, Hindi is a very powerful language, if we go deeper. This language is so self-sufficient that it is one of the direct descendants of Sanskrit, the oldest and the perfect language in the world

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Sri Ganga Prasad was criticised for giving his speech in his native language and not English in the legislative assembly.

Salil Gewali, Shillong

  • Hindi is one of the official languages of India
  • Sri Ganga Prasad faced criticism for giving his speech in his native language
  • This makes one question if English is becoming dominant in India

Sri Ganga Prasad faced a barrage of criticism when he delivered his maiden speech in the National language in the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly. Even one of the legislators abruptly walked out of the assembly hall while the Governor was digression the session. Thus, the Governor was intensely scoffed at and humiliated through the social media and other news media.

Well, everyone has their right to disagree and criticize. Of course, we do not disagree that the majority of people in Meghalaya are not fluent in Hindi.  This is not a big deal. But disrespecting the language could be.

Is Hindi being ignored as the nation moves more towards English? Wikimedia Commons

This news also made many of my facebook friends abroad pretty curious.  One very learned scholar – Avital Markel from New York speaks out her mind with a dose of humor: ‘why is there so much noise when your governor delivered the speech in the language which is originally from India itself? I know another popular name of this country as Hindustan, not “Englistan”, I believe.’ Another Yoga teacher from Las Vegas — JM Palmer remarks — ‘it’s ridiculous that people can disrespect their own language. I can easily pronounce a good many Sanskrit terms. I personally have tremendous respect for India’s Sanskrit and other languages because they are the languages of Yoga and wisdom of spiritual dimension’. Mr. Palmer is a spiritual seeker who regularly visits India.

                 I think both Avital and Palmer views resonate with what the citizens of other countries feel. At least with those who have not been insanely fascinated by the English language like some Indians do. It’s much observed in the country that one without English speaking skills is obviously looked down upon.  The ‘inferiority complex’ vis-a-vis the West and its external trappings often hold many Indians back in asserting that they are Indians. This syndrome is getting more pronounced among the certain class of intellectuals and the snobbish folks. This has already taken a very ugly shape. The trait of sedition is quite noticeable amount the certain class of citizens.

                    Anyway, if we have regularly tolerated the bunches of fraudsters, rapists, and murderers in the parliaments and state assemblies in the country, why could we survive a speech of few minutes in Hindi and so on? 

Also Read: Is Hindi The National Language of India?

On the contrary, the citizens of very developed nations such as China, Russia, Germany, Portugal, France will never lose their calm when their leaders speak in the native languages. Actually, they all speak their own languages. The imperialist British till the date has literally failed to cast its spell on them. The citizens of those self-reliant countries rather swell their chests and claim their superiority and what they are due for.

                          If I am not mistaken Hindi is still recognized as the national language of the country. So, even if we are unable to learn the language, it would do jolly good if we do not disrespect it at all. Here it will be quite relevant to cite a case of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at United Nations General Assembly. I believe, nobody walked out of that international summit on 27th Sept 2014 when the Prime Minister delivered his speech in Hindi. Thank God, we didn’t have any leaders from Meghalaya who might have cringed with embarrassment and walked out! That particular speech by PM Modi in UN was so applauded that it subsequently served to motivate the member countries across the world to vote in favor of declaring a Yoga International Day for 21st June.

Harivansh Rai Bachchan, a Padhma Bhushan awardee for his contribution in Hindi Literature. Pexels
Hindi is a powerful language and ought to be used more. Pexels

                        Incidentally, Hindi is a very powerful language, if we go deeper. This language is so self-sufficient that it is one of the direct descendants of Sanskrit, the oldest and the perfect language in the world. On the robust ground of India’s Sanskrit the Modern linguistic stands. Kudos to those unprejudiced and rational intellectuals such as Sir William Jones, Johann Goethe, F. Schiller, Franz Bopp, F. Schlegel, Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, Noam Chomsky who discovered the incredible literary gems in the languages of India.

                           Finally, for those who sniff at the languages of Indian origin and the wisdom and culture associated with them, I would like to share just one opinion by their much celebrated English master. Here exclaimed the American British Nobel laureate TS Eliot: “Two years spent in the study of Sanskrit under Charles Lanman, and a year in the  mazes of Patanjali’s metaphysics under the guidance of James Woods, left me in a state of  enlightened mystification.” I think we should not walk out of the “truth”. India has for ages been enriching the intellectual treasure troves of the West. But, what is a huge paradox is that our Indians are either not aware of it all or they do not want to acknowledge it.