Tuesday April 23, 2019
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Edit with a KISS!

credit: www.salisbury.edu
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.

Next Story

Volunteers in Colorado to Teach English to Immigrant Students

At the Intercambio Community Center in Longmont, Colorado, volunteer Deepa McCauley is teaching a dozen immigrants to talk about health in English

The volunteer teachers and their students both say the meaningful conversations they have at their Intercambio classes build lasting community connections. Pixabay

It’s been said that to have another language is to possess a second soul. For immigrants to the U.S., that soul can be hard to get, because it’s often confusing and difficult to find English classes, and private lessons can be expensive.

In Colorado, an award-winning group called Intercambio trains volunteers to teach English as a second language to immigrant students from around the world. The lessons take place in classroom settings or in the immigrant’s home. In the process, volunteers and their “students” often become lasting friends, building meaningful connections and a deeper soul for the entire community.

At the Intercambio Community Center in Longmont, Colorado, volunteer Deepa McCauley is teaching a dozen immigrants to talk about health … in English.

“Running a fever doesn’t mean that you’re running,” she said. “Running a fever is the temperature. Yes, exactly. The thermometer moves.” The men and women in her class come from around the world.

McCauley teaches them English without speaking their native languages. She says it’s possible because the training materials are filled with helpful illustrations and because of the training she received from Intercambio. “I don’t have a teaching background, but Intercambio has great training classes,” she said.

Its own training materials

Intercambio’s Executive Director Lee Shainis says the group developed its training materials with the volunteers in mind.

“We found that a lot of the materials out there were not directly geared toward volunteer teachers, and we’ve had 5,000 volunteer teachers since we started, 18 years ago,” he said. “And volunteers are capable of doing an amazing job, but they also need something ready to go and also really practical and relevant.”

Back in the classroom, McCauley listens closely when her students speak up, looking for ways to make their conversations more meaningful and relevant. That includes a lesson in their textbooks about mental health.

McCauley reads from the textbook: “How’s he feeling?” she asks. “Depressed,” the class responds. But then a student from Peru takes a step away from the textbook lesson. She ventures to say that depression can come from discrimination.

english, volunteers, learn english
At the Intercambio Community Center in Longmont, Colorado, volunteer Deepa McCauley is teaching a dozen immigrants to talk about health in English. Pixabay

Rather than going back to the textbook right away, McCauley uses this moment to build a more meaningful connection for everyone. Students stop writing and look up and watch as McCauley responds:

“Yep. Depression can come from discrimination. My father, in India, he was an engineer. He came to America, he was collecting carts. In the grocery store. He was depressed.” “Changing life,” a woman from Peru says. “Big change in life,” McCauley responds.

Meaningful lessons, lasting difference

Intercambio’s Shainis says that making language lessons meaningful makes a lasting difference, thanks to volunteer teachers such as McCauley.

“Deepa is awesome. She was one of our many teachers who had zero experience as a volunteer teacher teaching English when she first came in, and we’ve seen huge advancements in her quality of teaching, in her quality of getting her students engaged.” The opportunity to help immigrants learn English in this way has a personal meaning for McCauley.

“One of the main reasons I wanted to teach English is because my parents were first generation immigrants who didn’t speak English, and they had a really hard time,” she said. “And they wouldn’t have had a hard time if they had a place like Intercambio.”

english, learn english, volunteers
Intercambio’s Shainis says that making language lessons meaningful makes a lasting difference, thanks to volunteer teachers such as McCauley. Pixabay

Back at the Intercambio classroom, there are many successes to celebrate, such as the advances of a student named Silvia, who came to the United States from Mexico.

ALSO READ: ‘Credible Threat’ Leads To Closing of Denver-Area Schools

“When I left my country, I didn’t speak at all English. At all,” Sylvia said. “Sylvia was one of my very first students,” McCauley said. “She’s been here for how many years now? Two years. Now she has a job. She’s working. So she’s doing really well.”

The volunteer teachers and their students both say the meaningful conversations they have at their Intercambio classes build lasting community connections. (VOA)