English for Everyone

<b>English for Everyone</b>
Stephen Lau's website to help you get the wisdom to live as if everything is a miracle.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Why Everybody Can Write

Writing is an important and indispensable communication skill. We communicate with others through written words in the form of mostly e-mails and letters. In our work, many of us may have to write reports and memos. Writing is part of what we have to do in our daily lives to express what we want and what we feel. 

However, many of us are just afraid to write for the obvious reasons: we don't know how to write, what to write about, and, above all, we are simply afraid to write. Why is writing such a daunting and difficult task to so many of us, such a big challenge when we pick up a pen or sit in front of the computer?

First of all, we have to dismiss the myth that you have to be talented to write. The truth of the matter is that everybody can write. Writing is not necessarily a talent; as a matter of fact, it is just a skill, just like cooking or gardening. As a skill, it is learnable and teachable. We don't need to have the talent first in order to write; you write first, and may then discover your talent in writing. Even without talent, you can still write; everybody can write. After all, it is just a skill that can be perfected with practice. Like walking, you learn how to walk by walking; by the same token, you learn how to write by writing. 

The first hurdle that you need to overcome is that you don't know what to write about; in other words, you have little or no ideas. But we all have something to say just about anything. The reason why you think you have little to say is that you don't pay enough attention. Awareness,is concentration, which is focusing the mind on the present moment, looking at the things or people around you. Unfortunately, in this contemporary world, many are multitasking, doing too many things all at the same time without paying adequate attention to what they are doing. If you are more observant of your surrounding, you will find that you have a lot to say just about anything or anyone around you. The key to content in writing is awareness. Learn to pay attention to details.

The second hurdle is how to write what is on your mind, or how to put your ideas into words. To put your abstract thoughts into concrete words is the fundamental skill in writing. That is to say, you have to learn the basics of writing, such as words, sentences, and paragraphs; you have to put them in a coherent and intelligible way so that they convey clearly and precisely to your readers what you want them to know or understand. Unfortunately, there is no short cut. You have to learn all the basics, such as sentence construction, types of sentences, paragraph development, as well as some basic vocabulary and idiomatic expressions to help you master the skill.  

Empower yourself with the skill of writing will help you overcome the third hurdle, which is lack of confidence. Knowledge not only gives you confidence but also takes away your fear and anxiety in writing. Practice is the solution. You learn how to write by writing. Don't worry about making mistakes. Remember this: a writer is worth all the critics. The more you write, the more proficient you become as a writer. 

My book Effective Writing Made Simple is a handbook for all who wish to learn the basics of good writing. It starts you from the very beginning, especially if English is not your first language. Even if English is your first language, you still need to know how to write. You must bear in mind that speaking and writing are too different skills: what you speak is not the same as what you write.

Stephen Lau

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Learn Some English Slang (7)

Learn some English slang. Slang is highly ephemeral: it changes from one generation to another. Slang terms come into existence for various reasons, some obvious, some inexplicable, but most of them are delightfully direct and to the point. The use of slang adds spice to speech and writing.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
(7)

in low water: short of money
e.g. In this economic time, many people are living in low water.

stunner: an attractive person or object
e.g. This necklace is a stunner on you.

flap one's mouth: talk too much
e.g. Shut up and don't flap your mouth!

off the nail: drunk
e.g. Every time I come home, I find him off the nail with a bottle in his hand.

ditch: abandon
e.g. He's not a trustworthy person: he's going to ditch you before long.

flattened out: broke; having no money
e.g. I tell you what: I'm flattened out!

something out of a bottle: an impracticable idea
e.g. Is your suggestion something out of a bottle?

stuffed shirt: an arrogant perso
e.g. He's nothing but a stuffed shirt; nobody likes him.

do oneself proud: indulge in unusual and satisfying extravagance
e.g. Now that he has inherited the family fortune, he's going do himself proud.

fat lot: extremely little
Did you win a lot at the casino? Fat lot!

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.




Monday, April 1, 2013

Learn Some American Idioms (5)


Learn some American idioms. The English language is rich in idiomatic expressions. A student studying American English as a foreign language with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions and debates.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
(5)

Lord it over: to dominate
e.g. Your boss lords it over everyone in the office.

Have one's nose in a book: reading a book
e.g. I like books, and I always have my nose in a book.

Johnny-on-the-spot: at the right place at the right time
e.g. Here you are, Johnny-on-the-spot. You're the person we need!

Rack one's brain: think hard
e.g. I racked my brain the whole morning, but I couldn't come up with an explanation.

Take forty winks: take a nap
e.g. She is taking her forty winks now; come back later.

In the wrong: on the wrong side of the issue
e.g. I can't argue with you; you always think that everyone else is in the wrong.

Lose one's train of thought: forget what one is saying
e.g. If you are not paying attention, it is easy to lose your train of thought.

Have other fish to fry: other things to do
e.g. I cannot help you right now: I have other fish to fry.

In the wind:about to happen
e.g. Is it in the wind that we are going to get a pay rise?

Take something or someone on faith: believe with little evidence
e.g. I'm telling you the truth. Just take it on faith!

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Learn Some English Slang (6)

Learn some English slang. Slang is highly ephemeral: it changes from one generation to another. Slang terms come into existence for various reasons, some obvious, some inexplicable, but most of them are delightfully direct and to the point. The use of slang adds spice to speech and writing.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
(6)

Like hot cakes: very quickly
e.g. These tickets are going to sell like hot cakes.

On the carpet: about to be reprimanded
e.g. I'm afraid we're now on the carpet; we're going to get an earful from the principal.

Peg out: dying  for
e.g.I'm so thirsty: I'm pegging out for a drink

Horse around: fool around
e.g. Don't just horse around; find something useful to do.

Call a spade a spade: be very frank
e.g. I'll call a spade a spade: you're dead wrong about the issue.

Hot seat: a difficult situation
e.g. If you don't follow my advice, you'll soon find yourself in a hot seat.

Cut above: slightly above
e.g. You are a cut above the rest of the candidates.

No can do: you cannot do that
e.g. This is no can do!

Hot potato: a controversial issue
e.g. Same sex marriage is a hot potato these days.

Left-handed oath: promise not to be kept
e.g. Your promise is no more than a left-handed oath.

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Learn Some English Slang (5)


Learn some English slang. Slang is highly ephemeral: it changes from one generation to another. Slang terms come into existence for various reasons, some obvious, some inexplicable, but most of them are delightfully direct and to the point. The use of slang adds spice to speech and writing.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(5)

Square up to: face boldly
e.g. Can you square up to your boss?

Look in: a chance
e.g. I don't think you'll have a look in for that job.

Slap: exactly or precisely
e.g. He came back slap at 5 o'clock.

Plank down: pay a deposit
e.g. If you plank down $20, I'' reserve it for you.

Square meal: a satisfying meal
e.g That was a real square meal. I'll definitely come back.

Brain-wave: a sudden inspiration
e.g. With a brain-wave, we came up with a plan.

Slave one's guts out: work very hard
e.g. Your boss certainly slaves your guts out.

Mouthful: a long and important speech
e.g. The manager gave his staff a mouthful.

Sit up: surprise
e.g. What he told us  just now really made us sit up.

Rattled: drunk, confused
e.g. The man looked rattled; don't go near him.

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Learn Some American Idioms (3)


Learn some American idioms. The English language is rich in idiomatic expressions. A student studying American English as a foreign language with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions and debates.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
(3)

Get the blues: become sad.
e.g. Many people get the winter blues in this kind of dreary weather.

Back to back: following immediately.
e.g. We were busy with appointments back to back.

Come to think of it: I just remembered.
e.g. Come to think of it, you owe me some money.

Have one's head in the clouds: not knowing what is happening.
e.g. She drifted along with her head in the clouds.

Bark up the wrong tree: ask or choose the wrong person.
e.g. If you think I'm the guilty person, you're barking up the wrong tree.

Get a load off one's mind: say what one is thinking.
e.g. I have a lot to tell you; I just want to get a load off my mind.

Bury one's head in the sand: ignore the obvious danger.
e.g. You need to deal with the situation; you just cannot bury your head in the sand.

Johnny-come-lately: a late comer.
e.g. We have been doing this for years. Why should we let a Johnny-come-lately tell us what to do?

Kiss and make up: forgive and be friends again.
e.g. We had a big quarrel, but in the end we kissed and made up.

By the same token: in the same way.
e.g. I gave you financial assistance before; by the same token, I expect you to help me this time.

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Learn Some American Idioms (2)

Learn some American idioms. The English language is rich in idiomatic expressions. A student studying American English as a foreign language with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions and debates.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
(2)

Come to light: become known.
e.g. It came to light that he was the real benefactor. 

Buy a pig in a poke: buy something without seeing it.
e.g. Buying on line is sometimes like buying a pig in a poke.

On one's mind: currently thinking.
e.g. What's on your mind? You seem deep in thoughts.

By leaps and bounds: rapidly.
e.g. Our profits increased by leaps and bounds; thanks to your contribution.

Eat like a horse: eat a great deal.
e.g. At the party, he didn't do much, except eating like a horse!

Come what may: no matter what might happen.
e.g. I'll be back by nine, come what may.

Break the ice: start a social conversation.
e.g. After some moments, the shy girl finally broke the ice and participated in the conversation.

By the seat of one's pants: by luck, with little skill.
e.g. I finally finished my high school by the seat of my pants.

Get down to brass tacks: get down to practical matters.
e.g. The Congress should get down to brass tacks, and start discussing the debt crisis.

Grind to a halt: slow down to a stop.
e.g. The tour bus ground to a halt, and the tourists got out and stretched their legs.

Stephen Lau

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learn Some Idiomatic Expressions (4)

Learn some idiomatic expressions. The English language is rich in idiomatic expressions. A student with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions and debates.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(4)

Poke about: search for something
e.g. He was poking about the basement, looking for the lost files.

In one's prime: at one's peak or best time
e.g. My mother could work long hours when she was in her prime, but those were the days.

Out of the hole: out of debt
e.g. Today many people find it difficult to get out of the hole.

Put in one's oar: interfere
e.g. I put in my oar as soon as I knew he was taking the wrong steps.

Lay it on thick: exaggerate
e.g. He was laying it on thick when he said he had made a fortune in the stock market. .

On pins and needles: anxious; in suspense
e.g. She was on pins and needles before the surgery.
From pillar to post: from place to place
e.g. Because of my work, my family had to move from pillar to post.

Look the other way: ignore on purpose
e.g. The Congress preferred to look the other way, instead of solving the debt crisis.

Come a cropper: meet misfortune
e.g. He came a cropper as soon as he started his own business.

Get someone's ear: get someone to listen to you; get someone's attention to what you are saying
e.g. His wife got his ear and talked for almost an hour.


Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Learn Some English Slang (4)


Learn some English slang. Slang is highly ephemeral: it changes from one generation to another. Slang terms come into existence for various reasons, some obvious, some inexplicable, but most of them are delightfully direct and to the point. The use of slang adds spice to speech and writing.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(4)

Out in the sun: slightly drunk.
e.g. You look as if you were out in the sun.

Room to swing a cat: ample space.
e.g This bedroom is so small--hardly room to swing a cat!

Play it low: take an unfair advantage of.
e.g. He got his promotion by playing it low.

Rough and ready:: makeshift.
e.g. The room is rough and ready for the unexpected guest.

Salt away: store away money.
Where did the money come from? You must have salted it away.

Plastered: drunk.
e.g. When he came home from work, he looked plastered.

Out with it: confess; be honest.
e.g. Out with it, what did you do with my money?

Play up with: mess up; cause trouble.
e.g. The storm played up with our plans.

Over one's head: beyond understanding.
e.g The speech was over everyone's head

Rough it: live with it; endure.
e.g. This is not much of bed; you've got to rough it.

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Learn Some Idiomatic Expressions (3)

Learn some idiomatic expressions. The English language is rich in idiomatic expressions. A student with only limited knowledge of idioms will find himself or herself in a serious disadvantage in reading, discussions and debates.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(3)

Not for love or money: not at any price.
e.g. All tickets are sold out; you won't get one for love or money.

To crown it all: on top of everything else.
e.g. He forgot to bring the documents. To crown it all, he forgot his passport.

Become second nature: become habitual.
e.g. You have to continue practicing it until it becomes second nature to you.

Walls have ears: be careful what you say.
e.g. If I were you, I would shut up; walls have ears.

A house of cards: an idea that has no foundation.
e.g. His proposal is no more than a house of cards.

Go to the wall: fail; go bankrupt.
e.g. His business overseas has gone to the wall.
e.g. In this day and age, the weakest go to the wall.

As close as an oyster: secretive.
e.g. You can never get any information from him; he is as close as an oyster.

Like a fish out of water: in an awkward or unfamiliar environment.
e.g. In a room full of ladies, he felt like a fish out of water.

Milk and water: feeble; weak.
e.g. These milk-and-water economic policies won't help the economy at all.

Stephen Lau


Monday, January 21, 2013

Learn Some English Slang (3)

Learn some English slang. Slang is highly ephemeral: it changes from one generation to another. Slang terms come into existence for various reasons, some obvious, some inexplicable, but most of them are delightfully direct and to the point. The use of slang adds spice to speech and writing.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(3)

Double Dutch: Incomprehensible talk.
e.g. For 20 minutes, he had been talking double Dutch as if he were drunk.

No two ways about it:: no doubt; no other alternative.
e.g. This is the way to go; there're no two ways about it.

Cop out: faint; pass out; die.
e.g. As soon as she heard the news, she copped out.

Make someone's ears burn: talk intimately behind someone's back.
e.g. What you have been saying about your wife must have made her ears burn.

Grand slam: a great success.
e.g. The project was a grand slam.

Knock off: create; make.
e.g. This composer has the talent to knock off a masterpiece.

Make head or tail of: understand.
e.g. Honestly, I could not make head or tail of what he was saying.

Noodle: a simpleton; a fool.
e.g. He is no more than a noodle; don't pay any attention to him.

Make it snappy: Be brief.
e.g. Please make it snappy! We don't have all the time in the world.

Pack up: stop working.
e.g. If you make one comment, I'll pack up and go.

Stephen Lau

Read my book Effective Writing Made Simple. To download the Amazon Kindle edition for only $4.40, click here; to purchase the paperback edition for only $7.00, click here; to download the e-book for only $4.40 from ClickBank, click here.