Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Learning Some Grammar Basics


Learning Some Grammar Basics

Learning a foreign language is never easy because you need to learn the rules of its sentence structure. The English language has many grammar rules to follow.

Knowing the rules of grammar does not mean that you will become a good writer, but at least it will help you avoid bad writing. In addition, knowing the essentials of grammar may give you the following advantages: avoiding grammatical errors in your sentences; providing clarity to your writing; giving credibility to your readers

Knowing grammar basics means knowing the eight parts of speech in English words and writing:

NOUNS

A noun names a person, place, or thing.

A noun can be singular (referring to only one) or plural (referring to more than one). Generally, you make a singular noun plural by adding an “s”; however, some nouns do not follow this general rule:

e.g. enemy becomes enemies

e.g. goose becomes geese

e.g. hero becomes heroes

e.g. sheep remains sheep

Some nouns are countable, e.g. books, while some are not, e.g. hunger and thirst.

A noun can be possessive (indicating ownership).

e.g. David and Daniel’s house (NOT David’s and Daniel’s house)

e.g. Jesus’ miracles (NOT Jesus’s miracles)

e.g. the bottom of the box (NOT the box’s bottom)

e.g. the characters of Star Wars (NOT Star Wars’ characters)

From the above, a possessive noun is applicable only to a person, and not to a thing.

A noun MUST AGREE with a verb in a sentence, that is, a singular noun requiring a singular verb, and a plural noun requiring a plural verb. A singular verb in the present tense generally needs an “s”; of course, there are exceptions, such as the following:

e.g. The data show (NOT shows) that people prefer this to that. (data is the plural form of datum.)

e.g. The criteria for selection are based (NOT is) on the recommendation of the mayor. (criteria is plural)

e.g. Human rights is an important issue in this country. (singular: human rights treated as a single unit and thus requiring a singular verb)

e.g. Human rights are ignored in many parts of the world. (plural: human rights considered individual rights of people)

e.g. Six thousand dollars is a lot of money. (singular: a monetary unit)

A proper noun names a specific person, place, or event, e.g. James BondNew York, and the Civil War.

A proper noun is always capitalized, e.g. The Great Depression (BUT an economic depression).

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, August 20, 2018

Learn American Idioms


Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them.

Hit the nail on the head: do exactly the right thing
e.g. Your remark hit the nail on the head; that was precisely the solution to the problem.

Flash in the pan: only temporary
e.g. His initial success was only a flash in the pan.

Keep a straight face: refrain from laughing
e.g. It’s difficult to keep a straight face when someone acts so funny.
Add insult to injury: make things worse
e.g. Enough is enough! Don’t add insult to injury.

Have it coming: deserve what one gets
e.g. Failure was unavoidable. What you did had it coming.

After hours: after normal working hours
e.g. We are so busy that many of us have to stay after hour.
Just as well: good that an unexpected problem has come up
e.g. It was just as well the customer didn’t show up; we didn’t have anything ready for him.

Pitch in: help and get busy
e.g. We need help for this project; would you like to pitch in?

Play both ends against the middle: gain an advantage by pitting people on opposite sides of an issue against each other
e.g. In American politics, it is not common for politicians to play both ends against the middle to win their elections.

Quick on the uptake: quick to understand; smart
e.g. He is quick on the uptake; you don’t need to give him unnecessary details.

All thumbs: awkward and clumsy with one’s fingers
e.g. She will not learn to play the piano because she knows her fingers are all thumbs.
Make headway: make progress or advancement
e.g. Despite our effort, we have made little headway with our business.

Actions speak louder than words: do something about it, not just talking about it
e.g. Show me what you have done! Actions speak louder than words.

Have one’s fingers in the pie: become involved in something
e.g. As long as you have your fingers in the pie, things will not run smoothly.

Abide by: accept and follow
e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Preparing Yourself for Effective Writing

Preparing Yourself for Effective Writing

To write effectively, you must prepare yourself.

Getting Some Basic Tools

Effective writing requires lifelong learning and finding answers to all your questions about writing. Accordingly, you need to get some basic tools for your effective writing: 

A dictionary 

Use a dictionary to find out what words mean and to make sure that words mean what you think they mean.

Use a dictionary to see a word in context so that you have better understanding of how that word should be used in your own writing.

Use a dictionary to find out the preferred spelling of a word because the same word can be spelled differently.

Use a dictionary to determine the usage of a word, such as the preposition that normally goes with it

A thesaurus

A thesaurus may help you find the right word to use. Sometimes you cannot recall a certain word that you may wish to use; in that case, a dictionary may not be able to help you. A thesaurus provides words and phrases that are close in meaning. 

Understanding the Purpose of Writing 

You write not just for your teachers or your readers, but, more importantly, for yourself. There are several reasons why you should write: 

Writing may be a part of your job description. Writing letters, memos, reports, minutes of meetings, and sending e-mails may be your daily tasks at your workplace.

Writing affords you an opportunity to explore yourself—your thoughts and feelings. Writing is often a journey of self-discovery: you begin to find out more about who you are, and what your values are. Writing is more than an expression of self: it creates the self. To that end, you can write a diary or journal for self-expression. Regular journal writing not only improves your writing skill but also expands your thinking.

Writing helps you organize your thinking. Effective writing requires you to put your random thoughts into a coherent pattern. Through writing, you learn to mentally articulate your ideas in a more logical and systematic way. Writing regularly improves your logic and sharpens your power of reasoning.

Writing enhances your ability to use language for specific purposes. You begin to realize how some writers use manipulative language to persuade others. Accordingly, you learn to “read between the lines” as well as to recognize the truths from the myths.

Writing is an effective means of communication with others. Even when you write an e-mail to your friends, you have to make yourself intelligible by writing what you mean and meaning what you write.

Writing is an important communication skill. Reap all the benefits of writing by learning how to write. Make a virtue out of your necessity.

What separates EFFECTIVE WRITING Made Simple from other books on how to improve your writing skill?

First, this book is presented in a simple and easy-to-follow format: it is easy to read and understand. Second, this book is comprehensive: it covers every aspect of good writing—from basic grammar, correct sentences, effective use of words, paragraph development, to style and usage. With many examples and illustrations, this book is like a handy manual at your fingertips for easy reference. Effective writing is an essential communication skill in inter-personal relationships and in almost every profession.

Stephen Lau

Monday, August 13, 2018

Choosing the Right Words

STUDIO / STUDIOUS

Studio: a place where pictures are taken, or films are made.

e.g. The film was made in a Hollywood studio.

Studious: fond of study; careful and thoughtful.

e.g. To be a good scientist, you must be studious.

MELLOW / MELODIOUS

Mellow: mature; soft and pure; rich and full.

e.g. As he continues to age, he become more mellow and compassionate.

Melodious: tuneful; pleasant to the ear.

e.g. He voice is melodious; he should take up singing.

GENTEEL / GENTLE

Genteel: well-bred, polite; imitating the lifestyle of the rich.

e.g. Your friend is genteel. Is he very rich?

e.g. All along he has been living in genteel poverty. He is not practical.

Gentle: kind, friendly, mild.

e.g. Be gentle to my puppy.

DISPOSABLE / INDISPOSED

Disposable: cant be removed or got rid of.

e.g. This machine is disposable; we can do without it

Indisposed: not feeling well; unwilling to

e.g. You look indisposed. Is there something wrong with you?

e.g. Many people are indisposed to working on weekends.

TERMINABLE / TERMINAL

Terminable: can be ended.

e.g. Your employment is only temporary and terminable at any time.

Terminal: at the end.

e.g. The doctor told him that he had terminal cancer.

DECORATIVE / DECOROUS

Decorative: having an artistic or showy effect.

e.g. The ballroom with all the ribbons and flowers are very decorative.

Decorous: showing good taste.

e.g. The Princess looks decorous in that simple but beautiful dress.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Common Slang Expressions

Back number: a person with outdated ideas or information.
e.g. If I were you, I wouldn’t take any advice from someone who is a back number

Swell-head: a conceited person.
e.g. Look at his ego, and he’s such a swell-head.

Hard and fast: unalterable.
e.g. He held hard and fast to his decision to retire.

Bean time: dinnertime.
e.g. Come on, guys, wash your hands; it’s bean time.

Half-baked: silly.
e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Hard hit: financially ruined
e.g. Our business was hard hit by the recession.

Caught short: caught at a disadvantage.
e.g. The market plunged, and we were caught short just as thought we were on the road to recovery.

Apple-pie order: very orderly; perfect condition.
e.g. When we returned home, we were surprised to find that everything was still in apple-pie order.

Also-ran: someone not likely to win.
e.g. In this presidential election, he was just an also-ran. In less than two months, he called it quit.

Turn in: go to bed.
e.g. Come on, guys, it’s time to turn in.

Stephen Lau

Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, August 6, 2018

Learn Some Common Colloquial Expressions


Blue pencil: censor.
e.g. The committee will blue pencil whatever you are going to say.

Get the hang of: understand.
e.g. I still don't get the hang of how this machine works.

Put one's shirt on: wager everything.
e.g. We have to put our shirt on this project; we've no other option.

Pooped: exhausted.
e.g. I was pooped after working for nine hours in the yard.

Are you with me?: understand or agree with me.
e.g. I've been explaining this for an hour. Are you with me?

Bang out: reveal.
e.g. If you go into politics, you must be prepared to let all your secrets bang out.

Deliver the goods: do what is expected or required.
e.g. The new employee seems to deliver the goods -- very hard working and conscientious.

Half-baked: silly.
e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Not worth powder and shot: not worth the effort.
e.g. If I were you, I would just give it up; it's not worth powder and shot.

Have someone by the short hair: have control over; have someone at a disadvantage.
e.g. Not having adequate preparation will let your opponent have you by the short hair.

Cry blue murder: make a great fuss.
e.g. Just ignore him: he's crying blue murder over everything.

Have it in for someone: bear someone a grudge; be determined to punish someone.
e.g. All these years he has it in for you: you married his sweetheart.

Gift of the gab: ability to give effective speeches.
e.g. The new Mayor has the gift of the gab: people like listening to him.

Keep one's head above water: stay out of debt or a difficult situation.
e.g. In this economic environment, it is not easy to keep your head above water.


Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau


Thursday, August 2, 2018

American Idioms


Meet someone halfway: compromise
e.g. He settled the agreement with her by meeting her halfway.

First and last: above all; under all circumstances
e.g. She was an accomplished pianist first and last.

Late in life: in old age
e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Afraid of one’s own shadow: easily frightened.
e.g. Don’t tell him that this is an unsafe neighborhood; he is even afraid of his own shadow.

Abide by: accept and follow
e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.

Poop out: tire out
e.g. The marathon race pooped me out; I could hardly walk.

Make as if: pretend
e.g. You made as if you enjoyed the film, but you really didn’t.

Late in life: in old age
e.g. It was only late in life that he became a famous writer.

Bark up the wrong tree: make the wrong choice; accuse the wrong person.
e.g. If you think I took your money, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

Poke one’s nose into something: interfere with
e.g. I don’t like the way you poke your nose into my affairs.

Above all: most importantly
e.g. Above all, you must have a valid visa if you wish to continue to stay in the United States.

A little bird told me
: somehow I knew
e.g. “How did you know what I did?” “Well, a little bird told me.”

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Learn Some Slang and Colloquial Expressions


Are you with me?: understand or agree with me.
e.g. I've been explaining this for an hour. Are you with me?

Bang out: reveal
e.g. If you go into politics, you must be prepared to let all your secrets bang out.

Deliver the goods: do what is expected or required.
e.g. The new employee seems to deliver the goods -- very hard working and conscientious.

Half-baked: silly.
e.g. What do you take me for? A fool half-baked!

Not worth powder and shot: not worth the effort.
e.g. If I were you, I would just give it up; it's not worth powder and shot.

Cry blue murder: make a great fuss.
e.g. Just ignore him: he's crying blue murder over everything.

Beat hollow: be superior to.
e.g. She is bossy, beating everyone hollow.

Jump down one's throat: criticize or scold severely.
e.g. The boss jumped down my throat for not completing the project on time.

Back to square one: back to where one started.
e.g. We're back to square one: no deal.

Jump on: blame or criticize strongly.
e.g. You jumped on him every time he opened his mouth.

Darned sight more: a lot more.
e.g. "Do you think he should put more effort on this?" "A darned sight more!"

Dead to the world
Fast asleep.
e.g. When I paid him a visit, he was dead to the world; I didn’t have a chance to speak to him.



Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau