Whenever I visit some news portals, I often ask the following rhetorical question: Do we have online proofreaders in Ghana? In other words, do we have English language professionals on the various news portals that check for grammatical errors, wrong punctuation and misspelling before news items are posted for the perusal of the reading public?
Doubtlessly, when a news story is fraught with grammatical errors, wrong punctuation and misspelling, the readability, import and beauty of the story are adversely affected, thereby putting readers off. This clearly underscores the importance of proofreading stories before they are published or posted.
Albeit English is not our native language, it behoves us to emphasise it since it is our official and second language. To ensure effective communication and clarity, the Queen's language must be well written and spoken. Therefore, mediocrity in both written and spoken English should not be encouraged at all.
Basically, proofreading involves the correction of typographical, grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors in a written document. It is the final step in the editorial cycle prior to publication or posting.
In other words, proofreading is a critical part of the writing process that involves English experts or grammarians scrutinising a written document in order to identify and verify typographical, grammatical, punctuation, spelling and vocabulary errors.
Importance of Online Proofreading
One of the benefits of reading is to improve one's ability to speak and write good English. Now, considering legions of people, including students, that read online news stories on a daily basis, the importance of online proofreading cannot be underestimated, disregarded or downplayed. These days, in terms of readership, news portals or websites enjoy higher patronage than the traditional print media (newspapers).
When news stories are effectively proofread, they become suitable for communicating the correct message to the target group, that is, readers. In effect, proofreading helps to correct any errors lingering in a text with a fine-tooth comb. In brief, effective proofreading ensures clarity of message.
Due to the complicated nature of the English language, it is not advisable for online reporters and bloggers to proofread their own stories. Like publishing houses, I think the various websites must also have language professionals or proofreaders.
Types of Errors
The following are common types of errors I often notice in online new items: inappropriate use of words (vocabulary errors), lack of subject-verb agreement (concord), wrong punctuation, misspelling of names, wrong capitalisation, lack of consistency or harmony, wrong hyphenation, omission of hyphenation, ambiguity, verbosity or overwriting, convoluted and disjointed sentences, and combination of both British and American spelling, which is unacceptable.
A Common Grammatical Error
I would like to highlight one of the numerous incorrect expressions that have gained wide currency on many websites. Carefully study the following sentence: Former President John Mahama has outdoored Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as his running mate. The use of 'outdoored' as a verb in the sentence is completely wrong.
It is noteworthy that 'outdoor(s)' is not a verb. 'Outdoor' and 'outdoors' are adjective and adverb respectively. Examples: I attended an outdoor party yesterday. In this sentence 'outdoor' is an adjective that qualifies the noun 'party'. The rain prevented us from holding our meeting outdoors. In this sentence 'outdoors' functions as an adverb that modifies the verb 'holding' (progressive tense).
Therefore, the incorrect sentence should be corrected as follows: Former President John Mahama has introduced Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as his running mate OR Former President John Mahama has endorsed Professor Jane Naana Opoku-Agyemang as his running mate.
The incorrect use of 'outdoor' as a verb is also common in the print media.
Falling Standard of English in Ghana
I have stated on several occasions that the standard of the English language in the Ghanaian society has fallen drastically, and it is a crying shame that quality, high standards and excellence have been hurled to the dogs with regard to the Queen's language.
It is even common these days to find grammatical errors in textbooks and storybooks authored for schoolchildren. And the least said about grammatical mistakes in English subtitles in local movies and on television programmes, the better.
Over the years, I have firmly held a strong belief that everything that must be done must be done well. We must endeavour to pursue excellence in whatever we do. Mediocrity is counterproductive!
The author is a writer and a proofreader
Writer's Email: [email protected]
By Anthony Kwadwo Kyei