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.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Use of Italics

In English, sometimes words and phrases are slanted to the right--the use of italics. Effective writing requires the use of italics appropriately. The following  shows how to use italics effectively:

(1) Use italics for titles.

e.g. The film The Interview has caused much controversy.
e.g. Have you read Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace?

(2) Use italics for foreign words. The English language has acquired many foreign words, such as chef from France, and spaghetti from Italy, that have become part of the English language and they do not require to be put in italics.  However, many foreign words still require to be out in italics.

e.g. Gato is a Spanish word for cat.
e.g. Balance is expressed in the concept of yin and yang.

(3) Use italics for names of aircraft, ships, and trains.

e.g. Titanic  hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage.

(4) Use italics for emphasis, but avoid its overuse:

e.g. It is easy to find out how you can avoid credit card debt, but it is difficult to actually do it.

(5) Use italics for words, phrases, letters, and numbers used as words.

e.g. The alphabet b and d are easily confused by young children.
e.g. Do you know the difference between allude and delude?
e.g. Many people consider 13 an unlucky number.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Choice of Words

Writing has to do with words, in particular, the choice of words. A good stock of vocabulary is of course important. But other than that, you also need to know the exact meaning of each word so that you will use it correctly. There are many words that may sound similar, but they have different meanings, and thus they are confusing. 
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.
Reign Rein
Reign means to rule over; rein means to control (e.g. an animal)
e.g. The emperor reigned over the country for decades.
e.g. You must rein in your hot temper.
e.g. Beware of giving free rein to your reason. (i.e. not release from any restraint).
Defuse / Diffuse
Defuse means to decrease the danger, such as deactivate a bomb; diffuse means to spread over a wide area.
e.g. It is difficult to defuse the conflicts in the Middle East.
e.g. Once you open the bottle of fragrant herbs, their scents will diffuse.
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.
Faint / Feint
Faint (both as a noun and a verb) means loss of consciousness; feint means a misleading attack.
e.g. She fainted when she heard the bad news.
e.g. The robber, who gave a feint, began to attack the policeman.
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.
Hail / Hale
Hail means to greet or salute; hale means healthy and strong.
e.g. "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee."
e.g. A man is hale when his complexion is rosy.
e.g. This dress is too loose for you (not tight enough).
Some time / Sometime / Sometimes
Some time means a period of time.
Sometime, as an adverb, means approximately; as an adjective, means former or occasional.
Sometimes, as an adverb, means now and then.
e.g. We have been for the train for some time.
e.g. Why don't you visit me sometime?
e.g. She was my sometime girlfriend.
e.g. Sometimes I like her, and sometimes I don't -- that's our relationship.
Lose Loose
Lose means being unable to find; loose means to set free or to become less tight.
e.g. Here is your ticket to the game; don't lose it.
e.g. Don't lose your temper (become angry).
e.g. You are too loose with your children (you have little or no control over them).
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 elegant dress.
Foul / Fowl
Foul means dirty or offensive; fowl  a fowl is a bird, such as hen.
e.g. The smoke from that factory fouls the air. (as a verb)
e.g. He always speak foul language, even in the presence of ladies. (as an adjective)
e.g. We are going to have a roast fowl for Thanksgiving.
Currant Current
Currant means a kind of black berry; current means a movement of air or water; or of the present time.
e.g. We enjoy the dessert made with honey and currant.
e.g. The water may not be safe for swimming because there is a strong current below the water surface.
e.g. His secretary always keeps him updated with current affairs.
Terminable Terminal
Terminable: can be ended.
e.g. Your job is only temporary and terminable at any time.
Terminal: at the end.
e.g. The doctor told the patient that she had terminal cancer.
Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
Read my book: Everyday American Idioms.for ESL Learners.(to get the paperback edition, click here)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Paragraph Development

Many people wish they could write well. To write well, you must practice writing. Writing a diary or a journal is good daily practice to improve your writing skills; at least, you will not be self-conscious that people are looking at what you have written. The more you write, the more you will master the skills of developing your paragraphs; that is, you will have more to say, instead of not knowing what to say.

Paragraphs are about ideas, facts, and beliefs. A good paragraph must be adequately developed. In other words, every aspect of that topic has to be fully covered. There are generally different methods of developing your paragraphs:


Definition is required of an abstraction, such as democracy.

You need to define or explain certain terms or ideas that you think. You can define it by using synonyms, that is, explaining something abstract in different words, usually simpler words.


If your topic sentence is a general statement, you need to support your generalization with some concrete examples. Illustration shows that you are not talking through your hat and that you know your subject.


If you think the idea is important, simply restate it. Repeating what you have just said in a slightly different way is an easy way of developing a paragraph. A word of caution: make sure your sentences are not in the same structure, and the expression of the same idea is slightly different:

You can say what is not the case, and then assert what is the case. For example, in the case of democracy, you can say what seems to be democracy, and then show what is real democracy.

You can also make your restatement from a general to a more specific one by giving more details.

Comparison and contrast

In comparison and contrast, you are dealing with at least two topics with similarities, or differences, or both.

e.g. In many ways London and New York are alike.
e.g. London is very different from New York in many respects.
e.g. Intelligence is not exactly the same as wisdom. 

Use of analogy

Analogy is a special kind of comparison in which another topic is introduced to explain or justify the main subject.

You may use analogy to clarify an abstract or difficult statement previously made; you may also use analogy to persuade the readers.

Causes and effects

Paragraphs are about facts, ideas, and beliefs. Accordingly, you need to explain why something happened, or why it is true or false.Within this framework, you may have to give examples, compare and contrast, and restate your ideas.

Paragraph development is an important part of effective writing.

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau