By Jose Carillo
Media outlets in the Philippines put such great store on poll surveys to predict electoral outcomes, often indiscriminately publicizing purported findings without looking into the objectivity or even the validity of the surveys themselves. One such survey—a recent one that predicts another "People Power" uprising in the event the 2010 national election fails—had foisted on respondents a survey instrument that, to my mind, is seriously defective in language, information content, and sentence construction. Of course, we can rely on well-designed, well-thought-out, and well-phrased survey questionnaires to accurately measure the public pulse on various issues, but I strongly doubt if questions that blatantly telegraph the desired responses to survey respondents can truly reflect the real sentiments of the population as a whole.
My critique of poll surveys—and my words of caution against giving blind credence to them—leads off my Media English Watch in this week's edition of Jose Carillo's English Forum. I then present an old essay of mine about the grammar of exceptional cases of reported speech—the better for us to cope with times like this when people's claims and utterances are increasingly being viewed with mutual suspicion—and provide a link to a talk given to international journalism students by William Zinsser, the best selling author of On Writing Well, who advises them to consider those long, pompous Latinate words in English as the enemy of good writing. I have also provided links to two highly provocative challenges to conventional wisdom—one debunking the growing notion that America has gone into an irreversible decline, and the other propounding the idea that Africa is the true birthplace of Western civilization.