Like all other students who graduated from JC last year, Lesley-Anne has been receiving many flyers and brochures from the local universities of late. This is quite typical, I guess, as every university fights to attract the best and the brightest from each cohort.
Since I'm a professional writer, I'm usually less interested in the glossy covers and illustrious people gracing the pages of the magazines. For me, it's more interesting to see how each university positions itself based on its writing style.
The NUS style is quite corporate and very professional - it projects authority and credibility. Very much in line with its track record and heritage.
SMU is more casual - it tries to engage the student in a personal way. Again, in line with its image as a smaller and cosier university.
Yale-NUS is the most vibrant and projects the most fun image, befitting its youth, size and liberal arts curriculum.
I don't have an impression of SUTD because I haven't seen any flyers. I believe Lesley-Anne might have received one but she chucked it because SUTD's courses are not suitable for her.
Then we come to NTU. Lesley-Anne showed me the cover letter that was enclosed with a magazine and we were both bemused by the standard of English, particularly in the second paragraph:
The phrasing in the second sentence (second paragraph) is totally awkward. The third sentence gave us giggles. Lesley-Anne asked, "Their professors are spinning toys?"
That prompted me to flip the magazine that was enclosed. I didn't read the articles in detail but just by browsing, I quickly spotted some very strange phrases.
"Learning at NTU has a new icon in a 24-hub..." What? Does the writer even understand the word "icon" and how to use it?
"Do-gooder" is a noun. I know it's all the rage now but you can't suka suka change a noun into an adjective, especially in an official magazine.
Nothing wrong with the English here, just the very, very odd last sentence. Apparently, because Stephen Hawking is a scientist, it's okay to substitute his name in a Star Trek phrase. Which incidentally, referenced teleportation. Nothing to do with holograms...or Stephen Hawking.
Oh look, they used the phrase again! Twice in the same magazine - they must really like the phrase. This time correct name but guess what, still nothing to do with teleportation. The third sentence is so confusing I can't comment on it. I wish people would understand that writing is so much more than just planting catchy phrases here and there. The content and the context have to make sense.
I wish to qualify that I have nothing against NTU. I have actually written for NUS, SMU, Yale-NUS and NTU in the past and enjoyed working with all of them. I'm posting this because as a copywriter, I get vexed when I spot instances of bad English in official collaterals, as blogged about here. And it is my fervent belief that while it's unprofessional for organisations to put out communications publications with questionable English, it's even more unforgivable when that organisation is a university.
You may say, well, probably the Engineering and Accountancy students won't care or even notice but that's not the point. A university is supposed to be the bastion of knowledge and academic
rigour. It reflects terribly on the standards of a university when it
can't even communicate correctly. Also, I thought NTU has been trying to move away from its rather stodgy reputation as a mostly engineering university, and attract more students to its arts and social sciences courses. This doesn't help.
I don't know if the writing for the letter and magazine was done in-house or outsourced to external writers. Whatever it is, the editing can and should be tightened. If all else fails, NTU, if you're reading this, you can always give me a call.