Samson Asiyanbi of Berkeley's law school suggests that contributors pay attention to language use:

I don't know how best to tackle this issue without offending someone. My posting is meant to be instructive, not to denigrate anyone. After 1,000 insightful postings, this is imperative.

I wish we would all spend a few more minutes with our prose before sending it to Dr. Falola. Many are postings fraught with solecism that spell check would have easily corrected. Whatever the emotion raging through the nerves, I believe that one's argument is only as effective as the clarity of its presentation (as well, clear prose will never atone for a vacuous write-up). Often, I only read half of a write-up when the writing befuddles the thought. And when the reader is frustrated, the argument becomes as cacophonous as market noise.

Perhaps, you've found a punctuation error or a wrong word usage in what I've written thus far. You have my apology. This is not a call for perfect prose or NY Timesesque editing. I'm aware that it is harder to find the error in one's own work. A little effort, however, will go a long way.

My primary goal here is to take us back to the conversation about the reading culture in Africa (I will use the Nigerian press as my case study). I wish to engage us on the editing aspect--or should I say the lack thereof. It wouldn't be unfair to say unequivocally that the Nigerian press does a lousy job of editing what it publishes.

Here's a quote from a July 23 article titled, "Imoudu, Foremost Labour Activist, is Dead": "President, Nigeria Labour Congress Adams Oshiomhole who suspended for hours a crucial meeting he was involved with officials of local government employees to commensurate with the family, said that with the death of Imoudu, Nigeria has lost a patriot who committed his life to the emancipation of the country especially the workers."

I stopped reading after this prolix sentence. Commensurate? Any mediocre copy-editor (or proofreader, for that matter) should have caught that one. This should have never slipped pass the hawk eye of the copy-editor, if there is one. What about the three missing commas or the omitted preposition? This is just one sentence, which is about a luminary and not a layman. What more can I expect from a writer that mistakes "commensurate" for "commiserate"? What credibility does s/he have left? Why should I trust the paper? Why should I read any other article in such publication? Why should I buy the paper next time?

Most of the blames go to the editors. Writers write while editors are the quality control managers. The reputation of the publication not only rest on the veracity of the information it provides but, also, on the ability to produce the information well--in clear prose, without inexcusable solecism, and free of spelling errors, especially in the age of spell check.

All of this echoes the culture of haphazard work produced by many segments of the Nigerian society. While poor governance accounts for the preponderance of the problems, haphazard effort by the citizens is responsible for the rest. The printing press is no better in this regard. And as a proponent of the freedom of the press, it pains me to see the press mismanage its role in our democratic experience.

I took the liberty to take a red pen through a piece I enjoyed reading several weeks ago. Many of you will recognize the author (and if he's on this listserve, I intend no disrespect or insult). This is meant to be instructive, not insulting. The writer should be proud for bringing the story to our consciousness.

And we wonder why Nigerians don't read as much! It's economic. It's pop culture. It's also the quality, or the lack thereof, of writings being produced. And editors are not helping.