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

Thursday, September 27, 2018

My New Book on Living for Life

The TAO of Living for Life

This book is about the art of living well, which is being in the material world we are all living in, but without being of this mundane world. This daunting and challenging task requires profound human wisdom, which comes from TAO wisdom, the ancient wisdom from Lao Tzu, the ancient sage from China, more than 2,600 years ago.

Lao Tzu was the author of the immortal classic Tao Te Ching, made up of 81 short chapters of Chinese poetry on human wisdom, one of the most translated books in world literature.

This book explains the essentials of TAO wisdom, based on Stephen Lau's own translation and interpretation of Lao Tzu's immortal classic Tao Te Ching with his comments after each of the 81 chapters. Living for life is the wisdom of living in this contemporary age. It is not easy, so you need TAO wisdom.

For more information, click here.

The TAO of Living for Life shows you the wisdom of living not just for yourself, but also for others as well --  just as the famous English poet John Donne says: "No man is an island."  Once you perceive this intricate inter-connection between people, you will self-intuit the wisdom of Lao Tzu.  After all, according to Lao Tzu, there is no word or blueprint for human wisdom -- it is all about self-intuition.

Stephen Lau

Monday, September 24, 2018

Common Colloquial Expressions for ESL Learners

Common colloquial expressions for ESL learners

Expressing an opinion

As I see it

e.g. As I see it, this cold weather is going to stay for some time even though spring has officially come.

e.g. Well, as I see it, Trump will become the presidential nominee.

If you ask me

e.g. If you ask me, the weather is extremely cold and frigid.

e.g You're all wrong, if you ask me

The way I look at it

e.g. The way I look at it, gas price is going to go up again.

e.g. They're going to get married, whether you like it or not; that's the way I look at it.

Expressing reassurance and support

Get to the bottom of this.

e.g. Trust me, we can get to the bottom of this, and find out who is really behind this.

e.g. Don't worry; we'll get to the bottom of this. Just leave it to us!

You're doing the best you can

e.g. Trust me, you're doing the best you can.

e.g. You'll ace it; you're doing the best you can.

Expressing an alternative

All that's left

e.g. All that's left is to declare bankruptcy; you've no other option.

e.g. Take it or leave it; that's all that's left.

If all else fails

e.g. If all else fails, turn to your parents for financial help.

e.g. Talk to the manager. If all else fails, resign and look for another job.

If nothing else works

e.g. If nothing else works, go on a fast to lose those extra pounds.

e.g. You're doing the best you can. If nothing else works, just leave it to God.

Expressing warning

Just a heads-up

e.g. Just a heads-up: don't go to that neighborhood at night all by yourself.

e.g. He's not an honest guy. Just a heads-up if you go out with him.

You'd better not

e.g. You'd better not put all your money on that stock; it's like putting all your eggs in one basket.

e.g. He is very persuasive and untrustworthy. You'd better not believe every word he says. 

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Wrong Choice of Words

Wrong Choice of Words

Effective writing involves not only having a good vocabulary but also knowing how to choose the right words to express the right ideas. There are many English words that are frequently confused and misused.

Everyday / Every day
Everyday is an adjective.

e.g. This is an everyday event.
e.g. This happens in every day.
e.g. Every day somebody is killed on the road.

Fewer / Less
Fewer is used for items that can be counted; less is used for items that cannot be counted.

e.g. Fewer people came to the meeting today than yesterday.
e.g. We have less money to spend on this trip than we used to have.

Moral / Morale
Moral as a noun means a standard of behavior or teaching of a story; morale as a noun means a positive state of mind with reference to confidence.

e.g. Not to take advantage of the poor is a moral act (as an adjective).
e.g. The moral of the story is that dishonesty never pays off.
e.g. This victory has increased the morale of the soldiers.

Farther / Further
Father refers to greater distance; further means more or greater intensity.

e.g. Our new house is farther from the lake than from the river.
e.g. The demonstration only led to further racial tension.

Allow Allow of
Allow: permit; allow of: leave room for.

e.g. The regulation does not allow you to do this.
e.g. The regulation is so clear and specific that it does not allow of any other interpretation.

Bereaved Bereft
Bereaved: taken away by death; bereft: being taken away or deprived of.

e.g. He was bereaved of his parents when he was a child.
e.g. He was bereft of all his possessions when he went bankrupt.

Forbear / Forebear
Forbear means to tolerate, refrain from; forebear means an ancestor

e.g. You have to forbear from asking too many questions.
e.g.  He always takes pride in that Charles Dickens was his forebear.

Definite Definitive
Definite: clear and unmistakable; definitive: final and unchangeable.

e.g. The path going forward is definite with its goals carefully outlined.
e.g. The proposal is definitive with no further amendment.

Negligent Negligible
Negligent: careless; negligible: that may be disregarded, not very important.

e.g. That officer is always negligent of his duties; he has been warned by his supervisor on several occasions.
e.g. These details are negligible; you don’t need to include them in the report.

Spoiled / Spoilt
Spoiled: (past tense or past participle of spoil) lay waste, rob; spoilt: mar or ruin.

e.g. Your car accident spoiled my vacation: I had to cancel the trip and take care of you.
e.g. You are a spoilt child!

Aside beside
Aside: to one side; beside: by the side of.

e.g. We turned aside from the main road to avoid the heavy traffic.
e.g. The mother put the toddler beside her.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, September 17, 2018

How to Develop and Expand Your Writing

To write effectively, you must know not only how to write correct sentences but also how to use your sentences to expand and develop your ideas. 

Develop Your Topic 

After introducing your topic, you begin to develop it by giving it more substance. Before you do that, you need to help your readers follow the flow of thought, which is expressed in the following: 

Point of view


This relates to how you present a subject. It can be explicit or implicit; it can be personal or impersonal.

Personal tone: You play the role of the writer openly and directly. In this approach, you frequently use I, me, and my.

Impersonal tone: You keep your personality below the surface.

Your point of view should be stated or implied in the opening paragraph, and maintained consistently throughout your writing. Remember the following:

Select your point of view appropriate to your subject.

Establish your point of view in the beginning paragraph.

Maintain your point of view consistently. 


This reflects your personality in your writing. Your tone is inevitably implied in the choice of words you use, how you use them, and their arrangement within your writing. You reveal your tone towards your subject (it can be objective, subjective, or even angry), and towards your reader (it can be assertive or intimate). 

Plan Your Writing

Begin your statement of purpose

Now that you have pulled in all your ideas for what you are going to write, begin your statement of purpose. Writing one to two paragraphs describing what you are going to say.

Remember the following:

This statement of purpose is for yourself, not your readers.

You have to think about what you can say before you can think of what you are going to say. 

Ideas have to be sought, and then arranged accordingly. 

Writing the introduction


Introductions serve the following purposes:

Setting the tone of your writing

Defining your purpose

Drawing your readers into your writing

Ways for effective introductions

Begin with a relevant quotation that leads to the subject.

Begin with some background information that leads to the subject.

Begin with a relevant question that leads to the subject.

Begin with directly speaking to your readers in an imaginary situation related to the subject.

Begin with a relevant anecdote that leads to your subject.

What to avoid in introductions

Avoid making obvious general statements.

Avoid making personal statements, such as the use of I.

Avoid making statements that lead to nowhere. 

Planning the Outline 

Divide your subject with all its ideas into major parts, and then into subparts. Your plan provides a guideline for you. You can always update and make changes to your outline.

Expanding the writing

You expand your writing by giving it more substance in different paragraphs, with a topic sentence in each.

A good topic sentence is concise and emphatic.

e.g. The United States is now in an economic expansion.

A topic sentence can be in the form of a rhetorical question.

e.g. Why do people go into debt?

A topic sentence is generally placed in the beginning or near the beginning of a paragraph. 

Writing the draft

Write your draft, which is an early version of your writing. Keep writing, and don’t worry about making mistakes in your choice of words or in sentence structure. Just keep on writing, editing, and revising.

In revising, read slowly, and read aloud so that you see as well as hear your words. Revision makes you more thoughtful and critical of what you have written; you will spot mistakes in punctuation, spelling and typing, lack of clarity, or inconsistency.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, September 10, 2018

Learn Some American Slang

The never-never: the hire-purchase system.
e.g. Renting a car puts you on the never-never.

The old boy: the boss.

e.g. What did the old boy say about your leaving early today?

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.

Not a patch on: nothing to compare with; very inferior to.
e.g. Your current proposal is not a patch on your previous one.

Hold one's horse: wait a minute; not immediately.
e.g. Dinner is ready, but hold your horse; wait for the host to come down!

In good nick: in good condition.
e.g. If I were you, I would buy this car; it's in good nick.

Hook on to: attach oneself to.
e.g. Don't hook on to your computer all day.

Guinea-pig: person used as a subject for tests or investigations.
e.g. I wouldn't like to be a guinea-pig in this scientific research, if I were you.

Kick the bucket: die.
e.g. He finally kicked the bucket at the age of 95.

Kiss of death: support that will prove damaging.
e.g. If I were you, I would not ask for her help: it would be your kiss of death.

Till the cow comes home: never; indefinitely.

e.g. "When do you think he will find a job?" "Till the cow comes home."

Gumption: common sense.
e.g. If you've some gumption, you 'll understand the difference between this and that.

Hell for leather: at a reckless speed.
e.g. Some teenagers drive their cars hell for leather; they endanger not only their lives but also those of others.

Hit the roof: explode with anger.
e.g. When he heard the bad news, he hit the roof.

Keep early hours: go to bed early.
e.g. If you want good health, keep early hours.

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, September 6, 2018

Correct Use of Commas and Periods

To write well, you need to know how to punctuate your sentences.

Commas and full-stops (periods) are most often used.

You use commas to separate compound sentences. A compound sentence is made up of 2 or more simple sentences. First of all, a simple sentence has a subject, a verb, and / or an object.

e.g. He laughed. (simple sentence: subject + verb)
e.g. He laughed at me. (simple sentence: subject + verb + object)
e.g. He left the room. (simple sentence: subject + verb + object)
e.g. I was all by myself. (simple sentence: subject + verb+ complement)

However, you cannot join two or more simple sentences together without a coordinating conjunction (andbutornorforso, yet)

e.g. He laughed at me, he left the room. (incorrect: there is no coordinating conjunction)
e.g. He laughed at me, and (he) left the room.(correct)
e.g. After he laughed at mehe left the room.(correct: "he laughed at me" becomes a subordinate clause and no longer a simple sentence with the addition of the subordinating conjunction "after")
e.g. He laughed at meleft the room, and I was all by myself. (correct)

You may or may not need a comma for a compound or complex sentence. A complex sentence is made up of a simple sentence and one or more subordinate clauses (a subordinate clause is an incomplete sentence joined to a simple sentence by a subordinating conjunction, such as afterwhensince etc.

e.g. He saw me and he shook my hands. (a compound sentence joining 2 simple sentences by a coordinating conjunction: "and": " he saw me" and "he shook my hands")

A comma before and is optional. If you think the sentence is too long or the meaning is misleading, you may want to add a comma.

By the same token, if you think the complex sentence is too long, then you may want to add a comma.

e.g. When he saw me walking with the Mayor along the corridor, he shook my hands.
e.g. He shook my hands when he saw me. (without the comma)

I hope you have learned the following: a simple sentence, a compound sentence, a coordinating clause, a subordinating clause, and the use of comma.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Monday, September 3, 2018

Prepositional Words and Phrases

Prepositions are words that indicate the relationships between various elements within a sentence. In formal English, prepositions are almost always followed by objects.

e.g. The policeman shot (verb) the man (object) with (preposition identifying the man being shot) a knife.
e.g. I put (verb) the pen (direct object) on (preposition indicating the position of the pen) the table (indirect object).
e.g. I put (verb) the pen (direct object) under (preposition indicating the position of the pen) the table (indirect object)

Prepositional phrases always consist of the object and the preposition. Prepositional phrases can act as adjectives or adverbs. When they are used as adjectives, they modify nouns and pronouns in the same way single-word adjectives do. When prepositional phrases are used as adverbs, they also act in the same way single-word adverbs and adverb clauses do, modifying adjectives, verbs, and other adverbs.

Prepositional words and phrases are difficult, especially for ESL learners, because different prepositions may impart different meanings to the prepositional words and phrases. Even the same preposition may have different meanings to the same verb.


Catch on: understand.
e.g. The technology is fairly simple; before long, you'll catch on.

Catch up with: keep pace with.
e.g. Hurry up! You have to catch up with them; they’re well ahead of you.


Knock one’s head against a brick wall: become very frustrated.
e.g. Throughout his career, he had knocked his head against a brick wall several times.

Knock back a drink: consume a drink.
e.g. She decided to knock back a brandy in front of her parents.

Knock it off: shut up!
e.g. Will you knock it off? I’m on the phone.

Knock off: stop working; finish something quickly.
e.g. I knock off work at seven every day.
e.g. I knocked two books off within an hour.

Knock out: do something with great effort and energy.
e.g. I knocked myself out to do this project for you.

Knock over: steal (slang).
e.g. Those teenagers knocked over five bottles of beer from that store.

Knock someone over: surprise or shock.
e.g. His abominable behavior knocked everyone over.

Knock one’s knees together: be very frightened.
e.g. I knocked my knees together when I had to walk through that neighborhood.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau