Friends, I’m glad to come your way with another writing lecture, and this time around I’m going to talk about Choice of Words. Words are the key ingredients for writing — every skilled writer is a wordsmith. Careful word choice is an important part of writing which can transform a dull subject into an engaging one. It is essential that you choose words that capture meaningful and exciting imagery to your readers.
The story is told of how the speechwriters of a former US president, John F. Kennedy laboured all night in deciding between using “enemy” and “foe” when drafting his January 20, 1961 inaugural speech. The speechwriters wanted to use a less harsh word to describe those who did not like America. So, after a very long brainstorming session which lasted for several hours, they concluded on “foe”.
Their decision was based on the fact that even though both words refer to a person who hates or opposes someone or something, an “enemy” does it actively with much more passion. This is the portion of the inaugural speech I’m referring to: ” We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike….”
The secret to becoming a wordsmith is reading, and I have a personal experience to share. Many years ago, in the 70’s, I got the opportunity to get acquainted with the family of the Late Dr. Efua Theodora Sutherland one of Africa’s finest playwrights through my father who was her driver. During school vacations, I went to her house to help in cleaning, weeding; and did other house chores for her household. I recall Madam Efua Sutherland once told me to take advantage of the well stocked library in her house and read as many books as possible.
To satisfy her, I’ll pick up a book and pretend to be reading. In few days, I’ll send it back to the library and pick another one, and the deception continued till my cup was full. One day, the Late Dr. Efua Sutherland told me to give a summary of a book she saw me reading the previous week, and I was found wanting – there was an uncomfortable silence, and I observed that she was disturbed and considerably puzzled.
Since then, fearing that I would be asked to summarize the books I’ve read, and also to make her happy, I became serious and read many books from her library, mostly the African Writers Series. Many months later, I was given an assignment by one of her daughters to write an essay. The topic was: “A typical football match”. The instruction given to me was that I should write about the role I played in the match, whether as a child gone to watch the match with my father, a player, a referee, etc. but I shouldn’t use the first person-pronoun “I”
I was in Secondary School form two then, and I discussed the topic with some friends in my neighbourhood who were many years my seniors in school. They told me it is not possibly to write about the role I played in a football match without using “I”.
On a second thought, I recollected the writing styles of the authors whose books I had read, and completed the assignment. When the work was submitted, the daughter of Dr. Sutherland told me that I’ve done very well, and that she and her siblings were not able to do the same assignment when they were at my level. All her siblings got first class at the university.
I was very much encouraged by this revelation, given that I was a son of a poor driver and a plantain seller: and they were from an affluent home and were more exposed than me. When the lady who gave me the assignment became a Minister of State many years later, I told myself that I can do better. As if to tell me: Kofi, tweaa, you are not my co-equal, catch me if you can, she became a university professor. The Lady I am referring to is Professor Esi Sutherland-Addy.
Through the intervention of the Sutherlands I have been addicted to reading and I can’t sleep at night till I have read for at least an hour. And by God’s extreme grace, I have eleven published titles to my credit; five of which are used by the Ghana Library Board. My book, Sorrows of Electricity, is being used in Ghanaian schools as a reader by the Ministry of Education. I am proud to also mention that the University of Illinois, the Yale University and the Columbia University, all in the USA are using my books in their libraries.
Please check the links below for details:
In 1995, two of my books competed favourably with the works of some academic luminaries including Prof. K. Opoku-Agyemang, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Arts – University of Cape Coast, and the Late Prof. J.O. deGraft-Hanson to win the prestigious Valco Trust Fund Literary Award. Additionally, I have been the National Deputy General Secretary of the Ghana Association of Writers for the past six years.
Coming to my main theme, there is an Akan proverb which says that an insect which will bite you will always come from your clothes. If what I’m hearing that some people who are very close to Nana Akufo-Addo leaked the medical report published by the Africawatch magazine about a week ago for a fee of GHC400,000 is true, then human beings must be feared. In a special account, Steve Mallory reported that the Opposition NPP’s flag bearer, Nana Akufo-Addo is battling with life-threatening diseases including prostrate cancer, acute kidney injury, and an enlarged heart.
According to the investigation, Nana Akufo-Addo received the diagnosis and treatment from the Wellington Hospital which is the largest independent hospital in the UK. So far, no one has come out to rubbish the report which appears too detailed and specific to be false. My interest is not to talk about Nana’s sickness because when it comes to ill-health everybody can be vulnerable. I know what I went through when my old man was diagnosed with prostrate cancer.
My worry has to do with the level of betrayal in our politics today. I’m working on a book to portray the behaviour of political players in this country in which I will be sharing my experiences. There are a lot to talk about. In one of the political elections I have contested, my campaign team had strategies that could make it easy to win the contest. Few days to the election, one of my principal team members took money from the camp of our major opponent and leaked our strategies to them.
As if that was not enough, in the evening of the day to the election, this double-dealer went round with our opponent’s team members to our strongholds to lie to my supporters that I was stepping down for a particular candidate, and that I have sent him to deliver the information. He also said I have been paid a huge sum of money to cover my campaign expenses as part of the deal.
The reaction of my supporters was that if the one they are following has been bribed to give up, then they will also take whatever gift that would be given them and shift allegiance. The following day, when delegates got to know that I was still contesting, it was too late, most of them had changed their minds, and I lost.
Politics in Ghana is not a child’s play; it is not for the faint hearted. Some of us are still paying debts from previous election campaigns. I don’t intend discouraging the young ones who want to go into politics, but the love for money, treachery, back-stabbing and greed have made our politics very dangerous and dirtier. I have decided to retire from politics when my friend and brother President Mahama finishes his second term, Insha Allah. I intend going into ministry, and also devote some time for writing novels. I have an eye on the Caine Prize for African writers, and other prestigious international awards.
As I write, it is alleged that based on the published medical report by the Africawatch Magazine, some confidants of Nana Akufo-Addo are warming up, praying and hoping that Nana wouldn’t be able to file his nomination so that they will take over. As someone will put it, Nana Akufo-Addo is sleeping in a room with his legs outside; he has been completely sold out by his own friends. Onipa ye bad!
I will admonish supporters of the NPP not to follow this year’s elections with all their hearts else they will have heartache. Their party and flag bearer have been sold out, and it is a mathematical certainty that they are going to lose the impending elections miserably.