Paving the way…

SAMPLE 1: “The Enugu State Police Command on Saturday confirmed the electrocution of a 40-year-old electrical engineer, Enyinnaya Ukpabi in AmenuEdem-Ani community of Nsukka Local Government Area…The News Agency of Nigeria reports that a similar incidence occurred on October 20, 2016 when a staff of Enugu Electricity Distribution Company attached to the university town was electrocuted. The incidence happened when the staff was trying to relocate a high tension live wire to pave way for an ongoing road construction in the area.”(Police Confirm Electrocution of Engineer, the Sunday Punch, February 26, 2017)

Let’s pay attention to the use of the noun incidence which occurs in two contexts as follows: “a similar incidence occurred on October 20, 2016”; “the incidence happened when the staff was trying to relocate a high tension live wire.”

An examination of each of the two contexts in which the noun incidence occurs reveals that the writer uses it to refer to a single event such as electrocution of a human being. The usage here is inaccurate, being confused, as it is, with the usage of the word incident.

The point is that each of the slots in which the word incidence occurs actually belongs to incident. What is the difference? As we have adumbrated, the word incident refers to a major occurrence, a noteworthy event, a happening of significance. Please read the following sentences: 1) It is true that two members of staff had a bitter argument, but the journalist reported the incident in a distorted manner. 2) Before the recent incident, two more devastating fire outbreaks had occurred. 3) Neighbours attempted to suppress the information regarding the murder, but curiously enough, the police got to know about the incident. 4) There had been several cases of armed robbery, but the recent incident recorded the highest number of casualties. 5) The burning down of the palace was the incident that troubled the king the most. 6) No incident can be more devastating than the wiping out of an entire family.

The word incidence, on the other hand, refers to the frequency with which something bad happens in a particular place; the number of times something undesirable happens in a given place, as measured over a period of time; the cumulative effect of something evil in a particular area, observed over a stretch of time; the level or degree to which something negative affects a given population or area. Please read the following sentences: 1) Worried by the rising incidence of armed robbery, the Inspector-General of Police has mapped out strategies for containing it. 2) Mercifully, the incidence of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) is still very low in our country. 3) The incidence of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is a major item on the agenda of the next summit. 4) The examination bodies are worried by the increasing incidenceof examinations-related crime in the country. 5) The landlords will meet next week to discuss the incidence of violent crimes in the neighbourhood. 6) The INEC should do everything in its power to reduce the incidence of electoral fraud and violence in the country.

At any rate, the word incident should replace incidence in each of the contexts under consideration.

Next, let’s note the expression, a staff, which occurs in the following context: “when a staff of Enugun Electricity Distribution Company.” Obviously, that expression, a staff, refers to single person working in an establishment. This is an improper use of the word. A single person cannot constitute a staff of a company.As a collective noun, the word can be treated as a singular or plural item.

Please read the following sentences: 1) Thestaff is the single most important force in any establishment. 2) The staff were drawn from various companies in the metropolis. 3) Our staff is an even mix of both male and female workers. 4) All staff are expected to submit their files before the end of the day. 5) All members of staff are trained from time to time. 6) The company has a highly skilled staff. 7) The staff strength has increased by ten. 8) Half of the staff were laid off.

Can the noun be pluralized by the addition of s? Yes and no. Yes, if we are thinking of staffs of different establishments, but no if we are thinking of the staffof a single establishment.  The following sentences, for example, are deficient: 1) The school’s *staffs are committed to their duties.  2) The company’s *staffs are loyal to the chairman. 3) All the *staffs in this unit are to come for the one-week workshop. 4) The chairman would like to address all *staffs of the company tomorrow. 5) The workshop is meant for all the *staffs of this school. 6) The *staffs in our Department have not received their salaries.

It is grammatically improper to have the word staff in a form carrying a final s as it does in each of those sentences.

However, when the reference is to the workers in several establishments, then it is proper to add –s to staff. Now consider the following sentences: 1) There is a forum where all the staffs of the various companies in the conglomerate meet. 2) Should the staffs of the companies belonging to the government and those belonging to private entrepreneurs be placed under the same salary scheme? 3) Representatives of staffs from private and public companies are meeting next month. 4) This consulting firm trains staffs of both government and private companies. 5) The staffs of the companies in the rubber industry will be interacting very soon.

The word staffs in each of those sentences refers to bodies or groups of workers in two or more establishments.

The word can also be used in the verb form. Let’s consider the following sentences: 1) The Department is staffed by highly intelligent and experienced people. 2) It is a well-staffed school, with about seven mathematics teachers and ten chemistry teachers. 3) The major problem of that firm is that of staffing. 4) The unit is staffed exclusively by medical doctors. 5) Of course the kitchen should be staffed by trained caterers. 6) Do you think hospitals are staffed by only doctors and nurses?

All the grammatical points we have made concerning the noun staff are equally applicable to the noun personnel.We have said repeatedly that a single person cannot and should not be referred to as a personnel. As a collective noun, the word personnel can neither be pluralized nor modified with the word a orone. Usage examples: 1) The memo is meant for the attention of all technical personnel. 2) The vehicles are to convey only medical personnel. 3) The organization has a tradition of training and re-training its personnel. 4) All qualified personnel are to register in the Personnel Department. 5) Only senior personnel are entitled to annual leave with pay. 6) Military personnel are kept in a separate section of the estate.

Please note that the noun personnel cannot become plural by the addition of a final –s.

Finally, please note the expression, pave way which occurs in the following context: “to pave way for an ongoing road construction.” The important point to note is that the article the is missing immediately before the noun way. The expression should actually read: pave the way.

Now read the following sentences: 1) The removal of the manager paved the way for a thorough reorganization of the company. 2) The arrest of the mastermind paved the way for the arrests of a number other criminals in the neighbourhood. 3) The electrification of the area pavedthe way for the location of many industrial plants in the area. 4) Many old buildings were pulled down to pavethe way for the huge ultramodern commercial centre. 5) The cancellation of the old Modern Schools paved the way for the current 6-3-3 system of secondary education.