It was only after My Fair Lady was showing in the cinemas that its set designer Cecil Beaton noticed a mistake he had overlooked: towards the end of the film, in the scene where Eliza Doolittle sang “Without You” while watering plants, the jug she was holding was too modern-looking to be from the Edwardian… Continue reading To write well, sweat the small stuff
Recently, a Hong Kong parent reached out to me. My child has to sit for her DSE in a few weeks, she said. Can you help her tackle the writing section of her English Language paper on short notice? Even though I’m a writing coach, I’m probably the worst person to turn to if it’s… Continue reading It’s the DSE English Language paper that deserves a bad grade
Many people in Hong Kong cheered when the Wall Street Journal branded Paul Chan Mo-po (陳茂波) an “illusionist” for bothering to write to the paper to persuade its readers that Hong Kong should have been included in the Heritage Foundation's Freedom Index. A sense of vindication, however, is far from the only positive thing… Continue reading Learning the ABCs of persuasive writing from 陳茂波’s WSJ letter
I think it’s pretty safe to assume that anyone who has watched Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel’s “Belle de Jour” (1967) - a film about a bored housewife moonlighting as a prostitute - will remember this scene from the movie. An Asian client with a special request pays the housewife character (played by the luminous Catherine… Continue reading What’s buzzing?
“Rules are made to be broken.” This phrase sprang to mind after I read Buckingham Palace’s response to the interview Prince Harry and Meghan Markle had with Oprah. In our school days, all too often our teachers would exhort us to write in the active voice. While it is true that we should usually heed… Continue reading The power of the passive voice
When I came across this piece on writer’s block written by the New Yorker cultural critic Joan Acocella - I’ve long been in awe of her uncanny ability to narrate complex content in a deceptively simple manner - I finally received confirmation from good authority that it takes a lot of effort to produce effortless… Continue reading “A huge, bleeding effort”
“Didn’t you know there’s a difference between ‘indicate’ and ‘point out’?” my tutor at Oxford University fired this question at me after noting I’d been using both words interchangeably. The class was supposed to be on philosophy, but back then, my sensitivity towards English was so wanting that my tutor would often opt to teach… Continue reading “An infinite capacity for taking pains”
At the height of her fame in the 1960s, Pauline de Rothschild (1908-1976) was frequently photographed by Vogue and admired by the public as an interior designer of singular taste. She was, however, in possession of another talent that didn’t come across in those glossy pictures: she was a very fine writer too. So awed… Continue reading A room of her own