Using the right word in the right place

May 30, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Learn how to use day-to-day words of communication

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Say,  Tell,  Mention,  Describe,  Blurt out,  Chuckle,  Muse, Fume,   Submit,   Express,  Divulge,   Explain,   Confess, Announce,   Cite,   Indicate,   Declare,   Utter

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                     A Minister in the Court Room

It was a jam-packed court room. It had been announced the day before that the accused minister would be produced by the CBI before the magistrate. There was a boisterous crowd outside the court, shouting full-throated slogans in favour of the arrested minister.

 Sharp at 10am, the judge entered the court. All those present stood up in deference to the chair. With indignation and humiliation writ large in his face, the arrested minister looked around anxiously. The judge explained to the glum-faced minister the charges brought against him. The judge asked, “Do you have anything to say in the matter?”

 As is usual for Indian politicians, the accused minister described how the opposition had connived with the CBI to undermine his political status. He went on to add how some ‘foreign elements’ were hand in glove with the CBI to sully his image, and subvert the country’s progress. It was a long-winded speech, a feckless attempt to convince the court about his innocence. The speech was as monotonous as it was predictable.

 After musing for a while, the judge blurted out, “Don’t treat this court as a party meeting. You will be given ample time to state your case later. Now, be precise and to-the-point. You can not ramble on like this with a political speech. Tell me if you have anything to show that the CBI has arrested you arbitrarily.”

 The flummoxed minister said, “I will divulge all the required proofs against the plotters. But to do this, I must be allowed to go to London for a month.”

When he uttered these words, a mild laughter swept across the faces of all those present in the court.

 Looking towards the defense lawyer, the judge chuckled at the minister’s attempts to be bailed out. He asked the defense lawyer to cite any similar case where the accused had been granted bail to go abroad to collect evidence in self-defense.

Hesitantly, the defense lawyer submitted that he needed some time to furnish the information.

 At this point, the prosecution lawyer sprang to his feet and said, “I must confess your Honour, in the last twenty years of my experience at the Bar, I have never seen an accused asking permission for a foreign jaunt, when he is already in CBI custody.”

 The judge’s body language said it all. He pronounced that the CBI would get 15 days custody of the arrested minister. At once, the minister’s expression became sullen. The words spread around fast. The crowd of his supporters melted away.

 The newspaper owned by the arrested minister made a brief mention of the court’s proceedings. The editorial brazenly declared that the fight against the ‘foreign plotters’ had just started.

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This is a familiar scene in India these days.

 

 

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Writing a mail in IT organizations — some points to keep in mind

May 28, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Writing mails in IT organizations…

a. Mails automatically carry the date, time and designation of the sender. So, don’t repeat them.

b. Mails must be to-the-point and short to demand the least reading time from the reader.

c. Avoid difficult words, metaphors and other such flourishes needed for formal essays.

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Typical examples.. 

A team lead (Ashok by name) writes this mail to his manager (Allan by name).

About manpower requirement

a. A bad example   …

 Allan,

With a sense of relief I want to inform you that Edmund rejoined his duty today after a gap of fifteen days. I am really happy to inform you this. But, my project is running at least five weeks behind schedule. To catch up with the plan agreed with the customer, I have to mobilize more resources. So, I need at least two more programmers. I must remind you that I was to be given 9 hands. I have got 7 so far. So, I need two more.

If the project is to be completed in time, you must take steps to arrange these two resources for me.

Thanks

Ashok

 

b. A good example   …

 

Allan,

Edmund is back to work. But the slippage in schedule worries me. I must have two more programmers to catch up with the delivery schedule promised to the customer. We are a team of 7 now, as against 9 planned at the beginning of the project.

I request you to do your best to expeditiously allocate the badly needed resources.

Ashok

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About non-completion of work in the scheduled time

 1. A bad example

 

Allan,

As required by you, our entire team has been struggling to fix the bug since 6pm yesterday. But we have found that some unexpected problems have cropped up. It will need some changes in the code elsewhere. It is already 3.30am. The job will take another two days at least. Therefore, we are leaving now so that we all can resume work by 9.30am.

This position may be communicated to the customer.

Ashok

 2. A better example …

 

Allan,

While fixing the bug we found problems needing some changes in the code elsewhere. We did not anticipate it when we promised you that we will work through the night to complete the job. Clearly, two more days are needed. We are stopping work now to be able to resume latest by 9.30am. The customer may be informed accordingly.

Ashok

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Answers to “Common errors in English”

May 23, 2012 at 5:20 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Common errors in English …

 Answers … 

1. An executive sends a report to the General Manager, a part of which reads, “Regretfully, sales fell by 20% last quarter.”

 Corrected sentence .. An executive sends a report to the General Manager, a part of which reads, “Regretably, sales fell by 20% last quarter.”

 

 2. No new applicants will be considered, but will have to reapply for the post in January next year.

 Corrected sentence … No new applicants will be considered — all will have to reapply for the post in January next year.

 3. The Rajdhani Express goes directly to Delhi these days without stopping in any station en route.

 Corrected sentence … The Rajdhani Express goes direct to Delhi these days without stopping in any station en route.

 4. After the death of Col. Gaddafi, a Libyan said, “Hopefully his reign of terror is now over for ever.”

  Corrected sentence … After the death of Col. Gaddafi, a Libyan said, “With luck, his reign of terror is now over for ever.”

Or

After the death of Col. Gaddafi, a Libyan said, “Let’s hope, his reign of terror is now over for ever.”

 5. A backwater provides the most ideal conditions for prawn farming.

Corrected sentence …  A backwater provides almost ideal  conditions for prawn farming.

 6. The river-water sharing argument can only be settled by the two chief ministers themselves.

 Corrected sentence … The river-water sharing argument can  be settled only between the two chief ministers themselves.

 7. In Raja’s case, if the verdict is guilty and he goes to jail, the public will rejoice.

 Corrected sentence … In Raja’s case, if the verdict be guilty  and he goes to jail, the public will rejoice.

 8. On hearing about her winning the Filmfare Award, the actress ran about in the studio as if she was possessed by a demon.

 Correct sentence … On hearing about her winning the Filmfare Award, the actress ran about in the studio as if she were possessed by a demon.

9. Avinash had a row with his boss just before he went on leave.

 Corrected sentence ….  Just before he went on leave, Avinash had a row with his father.

 10. I will be very surprised if the wife dares tell her husband about her earlier love affairs.

 Corrected sentence … I will be very surprised if the wife dares to tell her husband about her earlier love affairs.

 

 

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China – America – Taiwan –Point –Counterpoint

May 23, 2012 at 2:51 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Point –Counterpoint

America –Taiwan relations … America must severe all political, military and private contacts with Taiwan.

Arguments in support ..

 This single step will remove the major irritant in the bilateral relations between the two major powers. America will find China to be much more pliable in tackling world issues such as nuclear proliferation, monetary matters, dealing with oppressive dictators, counter-terrorism, narcotic trade, arms control, and a host of other problems. Having China in its side in the United Nations will make American diplomacy more effective. Some degree of mutual trust in military matters will save huge resources on both countries.

 China’s forward march in the global arena is unstoppable. Having an adversarial relations with such a resurgent power is not a prudent policy alternative in the long run. This apart, removing the Taiwan irritant will make China more amenable to suggestions on human rights, dealing with dissidents, enforcement of intellectual property rights etc. At present, even a very polite mention of these matters makes China fly into a rage.

 Therefore, jettisoning Taiwan will be a small price to pay when the larger picture of Sino-U.S. cooperation is considered.

 

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Arguments against

 Taiwan is a thriving democracy. Although tiny in size compared to mainland China, it is very rich, highly industrialized, and a model of growth and good governance to other developing countries in the region. On these merits, it qualifies to be accepted as a worthy and full member of the world community.

 What will happen to America’s vaunted democratic principles if, for political expediency, it walks away from its commitment to Taiwan? How will America’s allies in the region view such a shift of stand? What guarantee is there that, spurred by America’s policy shift, China will not become more belligerent towards its smaller neighbours? Surely, America will sow the seed of regional instability if  it chooses to befriend China at the cost of Taiwan.

 That China will become less intransigent in global affairs after America acquiesces on Taiwan is wishful thinking. As history shows, China does not give much respect to weak and vacillating nations. The strident rhetoric emanating from China’s official media portends turbulent times ahead as the country grows from strength to strength.

A hyena will never keep quiet to have one piece of steak thrown to it. It will want more. This is realpolitik.

Common errors in English — CAT / GMAT / Civil Service

May 23, 2012 at 1:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Common errors in English …

 

  1. An executive sends a report to the General Manager, a part of which reads, “Regretfully, sales fell by 20% last quarter.”
  2. No new applicants will be considered, but will have to reapply for the post in January next year.
  3. The Rajdhani Express goes directly to Delhi these days without stopping in any station en route.
  4. After the death of Col. Gaddafi, a Libyan said, “Hopefully his reign of terror is now over for ever.”
  5. A backwater provides the most ideal conditions for prawn farming.
  6. The river-water sharing argument can only be settled by the two chief ministers themselves.
  7. In Raja’s case, if the verdict is guilty and he goes to jail, the public will rejoice.
  8. On hearing about her winning the Filmfare Award, the actress ran about in the studio as if she was possessed by a demon.
  9. Avinash had a row with his boss just before he went on leave.
  10. I will be very surprised if the wife dares tell her husband about her earlier love affairs.
Answers will be posted later in the day.

Essay — Learning new words through a hated dictator’s life story

May 20, 2012 at 5:48 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ferdinand Marcos of Philippines … The President who ruled and plundered his country for two decades ….

Some good words / phrases used ..   Kleptocrat, Despot, Run amuck, Coterie, Brazen, Smother, Fell, Henchmen, Impunity, Balloon as verb, Dwarf as verb, Frenzy, Gargantuan, Largesse, Profligacy, Jump into the fray, Seethed, Fiefdom

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When people discuss about the despots and the corrupt, names like Asif Zardari of Pakistan, Mubarak of Egypt, Ben Ali of Tunisia, Col. Gaddafi of Libya, Charles Taylor of Liberia come to our mind. In sheer brazenness, the account of President Marcos’s plunder of Philippines’s wealth dwarfs them all. He and his wife had a gargantuan craving for luxury and personal wealth. To satiate this, they looted their country’s treasury with impunity. How they could do it in such a large scale, for so long a time baffles everybody.

A diamond-loving wife, some favour-seekers and deadly autocratic tendencies …   By a very conservative estimate, by the time of his fleeing, Marcos had stashed nearly USD 5 billion in Swiss banks. His wife Imelda was a compulsive shopper of luxury goods. She used to go on frequent buying sprees to women’s-wear shops in Europe and America. She picked up the costliest and the trendiest items. Her collection, swollen with years of acquisitions, could easily match the highest-earning Hollywood actress’s wardrobe. From jewels to diamonds to dress to footwear — her museum-size collection looked like the most opulent luxury goods store of the world. On her buying frenzies, she would just walk into a store and pick up whatever caught her fancy. The presidential aide accompanying her would pay the bill.

President Marcos had his favoured coterie. Some were businessmen, others just favour-seekers and sycophants seeking some largesse. Marcos liked their company. Some of them availed large, undeserved loans from state-owned banks. Marcos facilitated the sanction. No wonder, a good many of these loans were never repaid.

In his tenure of 21 years (1965-1986), the external debt of the Philippines rose from just USD 360 million USD 28.3 billion. This debt financed the loans to the friends, paid Imelda’s shopping bills and funded his party’s election campaigns. The remaining went back to the lender as interest.  It was profligacy and imprudence at its worst.

As it happens when a country accumulates an unsustainable debt burden, the Philippine economy shrank and un-employment ballooned from 6.3% in 1972 to 12. 55% in 1985.

Resentment among the population rose. Opposition parties rallied people against the government. But, Marcos had no mind for introspection or retrospection. He rubbished the protests as nonsense. With an iron hand, he smothered all dissent. Fearing for his life, the front-ranking opposition leader Aquino fled the country. This, perhaps, marked the turning point of Marcos’s political career. He became increasingly intolerant and oppressive. The whole country seethed in anger against his autocratic rule.

Front-door entry to power, but back-door exit from the palace…

President Marcos’s political career had a difficult beginning. He led a group of gorilla fighters who mounted raids against the occupying Japanese forces. When the war ended, the country was set for an election. Marcos jumped into the fray. He had an edge over his rivals. All of these men carried the stigma of having collaborated with the occupying forces. Marcos was clean, a true patriot. This single fact swayed the voters in favour of Marcos.

Step by step, he rose from an M.P to the Presidency, all through fair elections, in the democratic path, and still having a genuine desire to serve his country.

He became president in the first term, then a second term and then for an un-precedented third term. By then, he had assumed that his country was his fiefdom; he could manipulate it in any way he liked.

The people’s anger reached a boiling point. Marcos was rattled. He sensed that the ground was slipping from under his feet. But he had reached a point of no return.

Seeing the tide of people’s anger turning against Marcos decisively, the exiled leader Aquino decided to return to the country. But tragedy was awaiting him. No sooner had he deplaned in the Manila airport, than he was felled by un-identified gunmen.

Marcos’s henchmen had eliminated Aquino, but the government brazenly denied any knowledge of the killing. Finally, the tipping point arrived. Angry mobs came near the Presidential Palace, and entered it looking for Marcos and his wife. However, they had left the country, just hours earlier. The mob vandalized the palace, ransacking the wardrobes and the chests. All that they found were some 3000 pairs of Imelda’s footwear, some sleaze magazines, wine bottles and a few pornographic materials. The Presidential couple had lived their lives to the full!

The end of the era… Marcos died of some incurable ailment in exile. Imelda waited out the fury of her people, returned to the Philippines to make a bid for the Presidency. But it was too much to ask from the people. They did not forgive or forget her past deeds.

The Swiss Bank funds … Imelda tried, and to a great extent succeeded, in keeping her ill-gotten riches out of the reach of the then government. But, the Swiss Bank authorities finally relented and agreed to restore the stashed funds to the rightful owners —the Government of the Philippines.

Thus the curtains came down on the life of a kleptocrat.

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Writing nightmare of Civil Service / CAT/ GMAT/ GRE aspirants

May 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Students and professionals,

Many of you fumble and stumble when you are called upon to write something, be it a small 5-line answer or a 1500-word essay.

Let me clarify that I have no mantra to quickly remove your inherent weakness, but I can hand-hold you to get over this hesitation and inability to write a good answer — rich in content, precise and incisive. You can then impress your evaluator with the style and substance of your write-up.

Follow me on this blog for one or two model answers daily, starting from tomorrow.

Vocabulary and creativity – How they help you to write well

May 18, 2012 at 11:05 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two examples of judicious use of words and creativity …. 

The rise and fall of A. Q. Khan

Ordinary English … A.Q. Khan is the Pakistani scientist who gave his country its first atom bomb. Through this, he had become an instant celebrity in Pakistan, although the rest of the world was alarmed at the scientist’s success.

This national icon is, unfortunately, associated with a string of controversies pertaining to the proliferation of nuclear know-how to countries like Libya, North Korea and Iran. The Americans are very angry with his (Pakistan’s) irresponsible behaviour in proliferating this extremely dangerous technology around the world. They had wanted his immediate arrest so that, he could be subjected to coercive custodial questioning by the CIA. But, A.Q. Khan’s pre-eminent status in Pakistan helped to stifle such a move. After remaining confined for a few years under house arrest, Khan has been allowed to move around the country. This has angered the Americans.

 Nowadays Khan is an embittered man. The people, the government and the army appear to have forgotten him. It appears there is an attempt to erase his name from the list of national heroes.

 Khan is furious with this attitude, which he thinks as sheer ingratitude. He has begun to hit back. A few days back, he disclosed that the then Army Chief General Karamat had received an amount of  3 million USD to pass on Khan’s bomb-making designs to the North Koreans. This has caused considerable embarrassment to the Pakistani strategic community, because it corroborates America’s long-held belief that Pakistan has clandestinely traded its atomic know-how to rogue states.  (Total word ..246)

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Good English .. A.Q. Khan, Pakistan’s celebrated scientist, who mid-wifed the country’s atom bomb programme, has spilled the beans to embarrass the establishment. He claims that the then Army Chief, General Karamat sold off the country’s atomic secrets to North Korea in exchange of slush money of three million dollars.

 This bombshell from this bright but villainous scientist vindicates America’s charge that he, along with the army’s top brass, had peddled bomb technology to willing and paying customers like Libya and Iran. To probe these secretive deals better, America had coerced Pakistan to let it cross-examine Khan in custody, but Pakistan was loath to handing over its national icon to CIA. His clout among the public enabled Khan to fend off attempts to bring him to justice.

 After a few years in house arrest, he has been set free. But, he is a forlorn man today, livid to see that few lionize him as before. The average Pakistan’s daily grind and the fear of the IEDs leave little space in his mind for this ‘celebrated’ bomb-maker. (Total words .. 180)

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 Travails of the arid area farmer

Ordinary English … The farmers lived in a land which received scanty rainfall. The land was barren. Not much crop grew there. The farmers managed to survive by planting dry-land crops like Bajra or Jowar. Despite their best efforts, the yield was just enough to sustain them.  (Total words … 44)

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 Good English … The barren parched lands were condemned to the eternal wrath of the rain god. The farmers scraped a living by cultivating crops like Bajra and Jowar.  (Total words .. 26)

 

 

Essay writing tips — Civil Service

May 17, 2012 at 7:29 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Good essays –how to write them

 1The most difficult part .. You need to expand your mind’s horizons by reading, listening, watching and discussing. Topics for essays can not be predicted. So, it becomes a near-impossible task to attempt to write an essay, when the mind’s reservoir of ideas, facts and information is nearly empty.

 Start reading books related to biographies, social and cultural issues, modern history, political affairs, international relations, self-help ideas, economics, matters of neighboring countries and, quite importantly, good works of literature.

 The best time to start reading is from school days. If you have not done this, you may begin it at least two years before the examination.

 Keep a dictionary and an atlas when you read anything. Jumping over difficult ideas or unknown names of places reduces the benefit of your labour.

2. The next difficult part is reading serious newspapers and news magazines. I would recommend Hindu, Frontline, Time, The Economist in my list of newspapers and magazines.

You may subscribe them or read them online. Like in book   reading, a school atlas and a dictionary (preferably Collin Cobuild) should be your companion.

3. The third difficult part is getting some peers preparing for the  same examination. Exchange of ideas, notes etc. once every two or three days helps greatly.

4. The fourth important part is building a reasonably good vocabulary bank of, say, 3000 words. I include phrases, phrasal verbs and idioms in this list.

 5. The fifth step is sitting down to write actual essays of 1000 to 1500 words length in about 50 to 60 miniutes time. Since the time is limited, you should be able to quickly visualize the different parts of the essay, like the introduction, at least three different paragraphs to make the body of the essay and finally, the conclusion.

 While writing, avoid taking strong, extreme positions on issues. Don’t use words which jar the readers’ mind. Avoid frivolous contents meant to build the bulk of the essay. The examiners will take a dim view of such tactics intended to hide your ignorance. Avoid repetition, and sentences with contradictory senses. These will confuse the examiner and mar your chances of getting a good score.

 You must look for a good guide to help you hone your essay writing skills.

 6. Writing essays on abstract topics is not everyone’s cup of tea. If you have better choices, avoid abstract themes. The content of the three or four paragraphs that make the body of the essay must be quickly and judiciously thought through. Use of firm, persuasive language points to the maturity of the essay writer.

7. Lastly, give your essay a quick revision reading to remove the grammar or spelling errors that might have crept in while writing in a hurry.

Essay writing — America vs. China

May 16, 2012 at 2:09 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Why China can never equal America?

 

Put differently, why America will continue to be the darling of the people all over the world?

China’s economic growth has been mind-boggling. Its military power has made it invincible. No country or group of countries dares to take on China; the country’s military prowess is surging ahead relentlessly. America is hopelessly indebted to China. Almost in every resource-rich country China’s footprints are getting stronger –in joint ventures, direct investment and through every possible route.

 

With ascent so quick, why China is still not the darling of the world? The answer is simple – it is a ‘closed’ country. It has a beautiful ‘soul’, but it is cocooned. Its long history, culture, language, monuments, vast expanse of scenic landscape, its friendly people and more recently, its athletes should pull visitors, scholars, artisans, artists and teachers from all corners of the world. The pull is certainly there, but the doors are ajar. The minders spoil the fun. They are so ubiquitous. They spoils the party.

 

Leave aside westerners about whom China may have some suspicions. For fellow Asians, people whose culture is more akin to that of China, the country remains ‘unapproachable’.

 

Free press, unbridled internet, unfettered physical access to most parts of the country and impartial legal system are the hallmarks of democracy. Towards this, China is hesitant even to start taking its baby-steps. This single factor keeps the political scientists guessing about its future. This void robs China of its ‘soft power’.

 

America wins hands down as the country with the most potent ‘soft power’. The openness of America stands in sharp contrast to the forbidding aura around the Chinese state. Whether it is a visiting student, a tourist, a politician, a journalist or an artist, the long hand of the state’s opaque security apparatus always looms ominously. The line of communication with China remains cluttered. This besmirches the Chinese image abroad.

 

That it will take a very long time for China to equal America in per capita income is well known. But this is not the dampener in the way of a Chinese being embraced abroad as a jovial freewheeling individual. There is always the fear of the ‘hidden agenda’. This creates the barrier between a Chinese and his compatriot in the rest of the world. This erodes the soft power of China.

 

In contrast, America will continue to remain a ‘predictable’ and ‘a ‘readable’ country. A visiting American professor in a university campus in a foreign country will win more adoration than his Chinese counterpart.

 

America’s universal appeal will thus not fade. When the present ‘war on terror’ becomes redundant and America returns to its old ways, it will be seen as a still more attractive destination to study, work, play, go round and live. China will need almost a century of renewal and reform to come anywhere near America in this regard. Brawn only will not suffice: one needs beauty too, to be attractive.

 

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