Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have expected myself to be sitting in my room, typing out something that remotely touches on the importance of good writing.
Unlike most of other proficient writers, I did not come from an English-speaking environment. My childhood was spent mostly in Mandarin — I attended Mandarin speech-and-drama classes; piano classes were conducted in Mandarin (and some Italian); my relatives all spoke Mandarin and variants of the Chinese dialects, and; most importantly, I did not speak English at home.
As a result, my English language results in school were generally dismal all the way till ‘A’ Levels.
Much as I wanted to be more atas (note the stereotype here haha) and mingle with the English-speaking peers, I always lacked confidence in interacting with them. Part of the reason was also because I was proud lah — Other than being able to understand Math and Science papers, I couldn’t really be bothered with the language.
And then, university came. The writing module at USP really gave me a huge slap on my face. I couldn’t string my ideas together coherently, and even though I had noble ideas (or so I thought) for my papers, they just didn’t turn out to be what I wanted them to look like. With help from the professor and several seniors, I managed to worm my way through the writing module, and I couldn’t be prouder to say that my academic papers later in my academic life had never scored anything below a B+.
This blog also took a drastic turn in writing style — from casual and can’t-be-bothered English to standard English. I know I still make errors here and there, but this has been a great platform and is critical in my learning of the language.
After several milestones (i.e. winning a blog award and people telling me that they read my blog regularly), I realised how important — and dangerous — writing could be. We write to persuade, to argue, to convince. Issues have to be thought through and presented clearly, before major decisions could follow. It’s hard to imagine, but the most important decisions the country has made, and will continue to make, are all in writing.
And you’d think that we don’t really need to write much in the workplace. WRONG — unless you don’t deal with emails at your workplace.
I can feel myself giving a loud “TSK” whenever I come across emails that have very glaring grammatical errors, especially when the person sending the email is someone young, savvy and armed with a good university degree. It’s like, oh gosh how did you survive your college years!
Some of the common errors that I’ve spotted so far (some of it may have been said to ashes but people still use them wrongly):
Did you went to that place?
It should be:
Did you go to that place?
For such questions [Do/Have/Did/Had] + (Subject) + [Other verbs], all the [Other verbs] should be in present perfect tense. To put it simply, the second verb doesn’t change, no matter what tense your “did” is in.
Another of such a case is the “I did not went“, “this did not changed” — Similarly, the second verb is a present perfect.
I should have went to the toilet.
It should be:
I should have gone to the toilet.
Should + have should be followed by a past participle. Remember chanting “go-went-gone” in primary school? I thought this error was the most unforgivable of all.
(a) I would appreciate that you submit the report soon.
(b) I appreciate for your kind comments.
They should be:
(a) I would appreciate it if you can submit the report soon.
(b) I appreciate your kind comments.
This didn’t hit me until I went for a Staff Work course a few months ago. The word “appreciate” should be followed by a noun, not an action. Like, “I appreciate your kindness”. Therefore, there was no need for other words like “that” or “for” behind it. In fact, example (b) could be re-crafted as “I would appreciate your submission of the report”. But this sounds damn cumbersome and old, even though it is grammatically sound.
I suggest that we stick to the conventional pleases and thank-yous. “Please submit your report soon” and “Thank you for your kind comments”. Simple and sweet!
Despite experiencing the cringing moments of bad grammar, I still maintain that I AM NOT A GRAMMAR NAZI.
Eventually, the idea is about letting the reader get your meaning in the shortest time possible. Therefore, grammar is just one small part of the big picture. The structure of your writing (I’m admittedly a structuralist), the stitching between paragraphs, and even how you word your sentence can mean a lot.
And this, unfortunately, can only come from experience. Whether to use a “zoom in” approach or a “comparison” approach or a “chronology” approach, whether to put a graph or a table.. etc etc.
I really hope that people can realise that writing is really important to their professional image.
Friends do tell me that it’s a matter of how good your English is. And these people are the ones who fare so much better than me in the language.
All I can say is, that’s not the case. If I can do it, you can too. *cues sparkle*
I am still learning the wonders of writing. Feel free to join me in this adventure!
Okay before this post becomes like a Disneyland advertisement, I’ll call it a day here.
Hopefully the next post will come with photos! :)
Ironically, when I have some time on hand to type something coherent here, I don’t really have much to update.
Over the past few months, it’s amazing how things have changed. I think I was mildly on the verge of breaking down then, with the tremendous pressure and expectations piled on me.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have survived the crisis without the loved ones beside me. They were the ones who scolded me and finally forced me to tears, and still had the cheek to give the excuse of “giving [me] a channel to vent my frustrations on”. Very cruel, but effective nevertheless.
So I’ve survived and I hope I’ve somehow risen above all. *Cues halo*
I think my next post will be on the importance of writing. I have a lot to say on this issue recently. :)
Whenever Switzerland is mentioned, other than Rolex, Tudor, Longines, Tag Heuer, Jaeger leCoultre… I’ll think of the Ricola advertisements with the Swiss Alps in the background. And rosti. :D
There’ll be a lot a lot a lot of photos up ahead. Switzerland is simply too photogenic for words. Even with my lousy photography skills, it still can look so pretty in the pictures. :) So.. take a deep breath.. and let’s go!
Before we arrived at Switzerland, we took a short walk at the city centre of Liechtenstein, a small but rich country with the highest GDP in the world. It’s so small that the police force only has around 150 employees. The entire city centre is only this stretch of road.
We took a stroll along the street and visited some of the shops. The collection of crafts in their stationery shop is amazing.
This is a model of the castle in Liechtenstein, where the Prince lives.
And this is the real thing — viewed from the city centre.
Being a doubly landlocked country (meaning that it’s surrounded fully by landlocked countries), it’s amazing how this little country can survive till today without succumbing to external powers.
And we continued to Switzerland. This is the Chapel Bridge (Kapellbrucke) at Lucerne, with the water tower (Wasserturm) on the right. At the left, across the Reuss River, you can see the old town. Interesting fact: the water tower is named not because it had water, but merely because of the simple fact that it was a tower standing in the water. HAHA.
And on the right of the Chapel Bridge is the new town.
The new town has a lot of such loud and modern posters around. We didn’t have time to look at them closely though. :(
Fresh fruits look more colourful there than anywhere else.
And this mini supermart looks too much like a scene from idol dramas! I absolutely love the transparent roof and walls… but having such a shop in Singapore would be torturous. Imagine standing under the hot sun every single day.
Everything’s a luxury in Lucerne. We spent the most here, looting back a stack of Laderach chocolates as souvenirs, a watch for my dad, and a bag for myself. All these added up to more than a month of my salary.
After all the walking in the afternoon, we travelled to Interlaken and settled for dinner at this fondue restaurant. They have performances on the stage, and at the end of it, they randomly picked people from the tables to join them in their cheerful music. Although the cheese and chocolate fondues were too thick to my liking, I loved the joyous atmosphere in this restaurant!
And early the next day, we’re all set to conquer Jungfraujoch!
The view is spectacular, even at the start of the train ride.
The countryside overseeing the Alps.
As we climbed higher, the proportion of green in the scenery became smaller and smaller.
It’s all white!
Advertisements of Swiss watches are everywhere… even on Jungfraujoch!
This was a must-take photo with the train and the mountains as background. Temperature on the hills were at the sub-zeros and it was very windy.
Everywhere is so pretty that I couldn’t stop taking photos. And of course, we spent quite some time up in the mountains, taking in every bit of the spectacular sight surrounding us. It’s only when we get to see the magnificent work of nature, we get to feel how small and powerless we are.
But after a while we got bored.
And we started to play in the snow. Yes, the snow was so thick that I could dig a shape big enough to let me sit comfortably inside. That’s my snow throne. :D
This was how thick the snow was.
View from the top. Where are my shoes!
We were very lucky that the weather that day was clear, sunny and breezy. The breezy part.. sometimes it gets a little chilly, though.
That’s my dad — seemingly victorious after climbing up the snow-laden slope.
This was one of the more “honest” restaurants up on the mountains. Good food and not entirely overpriced. Our tour guide enjoyed a fair bit of goodwill from the restaurant owners as she would bring along some Singapore flavours, like kaya and belacan chilli, which the restaurant owners loved. Similarly, they would serve her guests bigger portions as a form of gratitude.
The rosti here was the best rosti I’ve ever eaten! Although the rosti was scattered around and was less like a coherent platter (like the ones in Singapore), it was evenly fried and none of the potato strips were burnt! However, the sausage was a little too salty for my liking. It’s huge, nevertheless, which made us really really full after the meal.
Looking back at the photos of Jungfraujoch, I really feel like going there again. One day, when I’m feeling proud and rich, I’d fly there to remind myself how small and insignificant I am, and to remind myself to be thankful of all the things I have, or don’t have, in my life.
With a bomb of too many photos of Switzerland, here I end my long journey of the Europe. I hope it’s not too long before I embark on another trip of self-discovery. :)
I associate London with everything prim and proper, elegant, poised, orderly, and scholarly.
Indeed, most of it is true, with little anomalies.
Hello, Big Ben! As I was living in a hotel across the Thames river, the Big Ben kept me company throughout my stay in London.
View across the Thames River — Palace of Westminster glowing with glory.
A shot through the coach’s window. Majestic indeed.
We took a walk around the area where the main tourist sites were situated.
Westminster Abbey, an architecture that dated back to the… 1600s? Pardon me if I got this wrong. Haha.
We decided to take a look at the change of guards at the Buckingham Palace. The kids were all very excited to see constables on horses — just like what we read in our Enid Blyton books!
Yes, he is real. The guards really looked like keychains/toys that came to life. I get reminded time and again of one of the Mr Bean’s episodes where he put little things on the guard’s furry hat to make a smiley face.
Anyway, I took a video of the change of guards that was so huge a file size, it was almost torturing to upload online. Nothing exceptionally spectacular, except that.. I’ve never seen so many nice and clean horses before. LOL. Some of the horses even started getting a little jumpy and excited at the marching music. Heh.
While all the waiting was going on, this busker decided to charge people for taking photos of her. Haha. Innovative (but desperate) business idea, maybe?
Pink cab! Looks like a car that would appear during wedding photoshoots.
You think London is not orderly enough? See. Even their kids are put on furry “leashes”. It’s really common in London — they even have such “bags” in different designs. Although it might seem a little derogatory to be bringing them around like that, it’s really a lot safer than letting them run around. *Thinks of the notorious incident of a toddler running across a street in Singapore and almost got knocked down.*
London is not entirely prim and proper. Buildings still retained most of its creative flair. This black-and-white one was exceptionally outstanding amidst the rows of bricks and mortar.
And… Harry Potter could be inside this alley!
There is too much more to be seen, and the tourist spots in London are already so popular that you don’t really need to see the actual thing per se. Some of them even became the background of the MVs produced by Asian artistes. I would love to visit London again and explore the city on my own!
Paris is the meronym for fashion, luxury goods, and an expensive lifestyle.
During our Europe trip, Paris was merely a stopover. While we didn’t visit many tourist attractions, we were still able to catch a glimpse of the main Paris sights through the windows of our coach.
Paris is peppered with many, many cafes. And their al fresco seats are all neatly arranged to face the street. Seems like the French likes to people-watch during their free time!
We tried having coffee at one of their cafes — it turned out that there was a choice of seats, and the price of your coffee is dependent on the seat you choose! The most expensive seats are those that we see in the picture up there — the al fresco ones. Indoor seats with window view second, and the really in-the-middle-of-nowhere indoor seats are the cheapest.
So this is how the French cultivate themselves. I can already imagine crowds and crowds of them sitting at these al fresco seats and talking about mundane daily lives, occasionally passing a few comments on the passers-by rushing past. Looking back at Singapore, I think if we try to charge prices according to seats, the ones inside would be the most expensive. AIRCON. Watch people for what, right.
Narrow alleys of the city reminds me of the scenes (and scent) of the classic novel Perfume. It might have been cluttered with horses and people in the past, but now, all that’s left are random pedestrians and a narrow strip of the clear blue sky.
Tiny cars everywhere. The traffic jam in Paris is so bad that they cut the cars into half. ><
Protests happen very often in Paris. We were in Paris for only a day, and we had already encountered TWO protests. I wonder what the teachers there were unhappy about.
The Palais Garnier Opera House, which reads “Academie Nationale de Musique” on its facade. I was expecting this to be some kind of music school until I realised it was actually an opera house. #suaku
A #beentheredonethat shot. Very nice Arc de Triomphe, but my mom seemed to be distracted by some cute angmoh walking past. Just kidding.
Arc de Triomphe on my head yay. Behind me is also the famous shopping street, Champs Elysees, with a huge LV store (where tourists come to pay respects to) and expensive hotels.
Another #beentheredonethat shot. The pigeons behind couldn’t even be bothered with me.
This ends my very short post on France — up next, London! I’ll leave the most beautiful of all, Switzerland, for the last. :)
This isn’t a self-help entry. This is gonna be a narrative of my recent dealing with someone like that. I have to say that.. I hate to generalise people like that, especially people whom I don’t really know. However, this incident is so impactful that I have to do this. LOL.
I was sick for two consecutive days last week. Let’s just say, Monday and Tuesday. On Tuesday evening, I had already fully recovered from my fever and cough.
So, I reported back to work on Wednesday. My colleagues in the same office (and some closer ones in the other offices) were kind to ask if I was well, and how everything was. I replied positively, thanking them and telling them that I had fully recovered.
As usual, the group of us young people from various offices gathered to have lunch. A colleague asked if I was OK, and she was curious what happened. I said, it was a viral fever and cough, but I’ve recovered. I was looking a little pale, as my blood pressure was running low (my family has a history of LBP) and I was really pretty hungry.
Once I said the word “viral fever and cough”, this Girl sitting beside me immediately moved her chair away from me. “Better stay away from you,” she said.
I thought she was joking, and I was self-conscious about my sickness, so I kept quiet about it. I stopped talking throughout the lunch. I was afraid that, if there’s any sign of virus still alive in me, opening my mouth would release an army of them.
Halfway through the lunch, I leaned far back and gave out two meek bouts of cough. Immediately, the Girl gave me a dramatic “scared” look.
Again, I thought she was joking. However, I had already started to feel that she was taking the joke a little too far.
In some sort of retaliation, I said, “OK since you’re so scared, I can move to another table to eat.” Guess what her reply was. “It’s OK it’s OK, I’m going to leave anyway,” she replied.
It wasn’t a “It’s OK, I was merely joking.” So… SHE WAS SERIOUS ABOUT ALL HER “JOKES”! SHE WAS SERIOUS ABOUT STAYING FAR FAR AWAY FROM ME!
Throughout lunch, she was talking about how there’s a virus in the office. One by one my colleagues and I in the same office were falling sick. She talked about using a disinfectant spray on my office since the virus is probably the strongest there.
All along, I thought it was a very bad joke. But again, SHE WAS SERIOUS.
When I went back to my office, she was standing in the middle of the room, spraying disinfectants into the air.
Mind you, she is not even residing in my office. She is from another office.
Besides, spraying disinfectants in my office not only offended me, but my colleagues as well. I’m so ashamed of myself — I was so shocked and offended by her actions that I didn’t shout at her to scram when I saw her in my office. I should have done so! Argh.
This incident had quite a significant emotional impact on me. I was very hurt and angry by it. At first, I thought she had something against me. She was bullying me because I had done something malicious to her before. But I couldn’t recall anything. Then, why do I deserve such a treatment? I don’t even think any human being, disabled or not, deserve such cruel and excruciating emotional condemnation.
Therefore, the only thing I could do to rationalise her actions, was to classify her as someone of low EQ. Or absolutely zilch EQ.
So what if you’re rich, so what if you’re branded head to toe, so what if you have higher qualifications? You are pretty on the outside, rotten on the inside. Morally, socially, you are at most a 3-year-old kid. Even kindergarten kids can do better than you. 这样的人，简直是金玉其外，败絮其中。
I explored several ways of “retribution”, but I’ve come to terms with myself and I’ve decided to just forget about this incident and stop being too friendly to her from now on. Heck, I’m not gonna put myself to her level if I want to deal with her. People of moral values always stand on a higher ground than those without.
With such attitude, she might have offended many others. I don’t know. Nonetheless, I believe in “无为而无不为”, so I’ll patiently wait till the day when I know what 无不为 stuff are done to her due to her actions.
Yes, this incident is so epic and this Girl has such an amazingly low EQ that I had to pen this down. 经一事长一智，with this incident in mind, I think I will try to improve on how I handle similar incidents and people in the future.
I hope this entertained you enough on a Sunday night. Haha. Till the next entry, goodnight!