JEFF BROOMES: Speaking and writing well matter
There are very few things that anyone does every day.
In my case, there are two. I watch television and read the newspaper without exception.
I often feel stranded up the river without a paddle if my television set is down or if my paper delivery is not made.
This is my daily food from which I get great nourishment. Sometimes, however, the taste is spoiled by skin-grating speech or the piercing written words.
Our television personalities and newspaper writers must accept their role as example setters and models for the wider society, especially the young developing minds. As they hear their heroes on television speak so do they.
This is also true for what they read in the newspapers.
I will today step into the world of presumptuousness and seek to offer advice relative to some of the major speech and writing errors with which we are often presented. I hope these next two articles are also read by students, especially those preparing for CSEC and Common Entrance.
It is quite common and disturbing to hear speakers on television use the phrase, “between you and I.” This is wrong and should never be stated. The word between is a preposition, a part of speech that, with a few exceptions, must be followed by an object pronoun.
As we speak and write, we must remember that “I” is a subject pronoun but “me” is the object pronoun. Hence, the correct expression must always be “between you and me!”
Recently, I listened in horror as one participant in a radio programme argued that the word “number” must always take a singular verb. His support was that he was taught that from primary school. I heard myself saying, “You were badly taught.”
There is a simple guiding principle here, if the word number is preceded by the definite article (the) it indeed takes the singular verb. If, however, it is preceded by the indefinite article (a) it takes the plural verb. Hence, “The number of children here today is forty,” but “A number of boys are on the block.”
Last week as I read the newspaper I was presented with this sentence, “They were not licenced to drive through that village.” This showed a lack of knowledge of the use of such words.
Words that interchange the letters “c” and “s” carry the “c” when being used as a noun or an adjective and the “s” when being used as a verb.
The word “licenced” in the given sentence is being used as a verb and should therefore carry the letter “s.”
The American television stations often overwhelm me with pain. As President Obama exited the plane in Havana, one objector was quite vocal. He was strong in his position that there were still too “much” arrests of dissidents. His intent may be correct but his expression was poor.
Antecedents of countable and non-countable nouns are very specific. Words that carry a singular and a plural can never be preceded by the word “much” which goes with words that carry no plural. Instead, the word to be used there is “many”.
Hence, there may be much disruption but many arrests.
Understanding of these areas is important and will be continued, because speaking and writing well matter!
Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email [email protected]