Writing Skills Analysis

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This web page covers the popular genres which appear in the HKDSE English Language Paper 2 (Writing).  Read this web page thoroughly to familiarize yourself with features of different genres and learn some new vocabulary items. Click the buttons on the menu to start!


Sports Communication

Newspaper news report
The heroes’ fight
Cameras were set, cheering teams were ready, and fingers were crossed. The time had finally come for the volleyball teams of St. George’s School and Royal College to showcase what they have been striving for throughout the season. The final of the 34th Inter-school Volleyball Championship was the tenth time for the longstanding rivals to meet in volleyball finals, and tensions were inevitable. As Chris Wong, the captain of St. George’s School, put it, ‘we’ve trained hard to carry on the St. George’s legend. Our team has won 8 out of 10 matches against Royal College, but they are aiming for recapture too.’

Indeed, the road to glory was never an easy one, and the first four sets were predictably intense. The Royal College claimed the first technical time-out, but the St. George’s players were quick to keep up with the pace of Royal College and won the first set of the game. The latter was not to be looked down upon. In the second set, their players fought courageously and succeeded in winning by a narrow two-point. Encouraged, they further secured the match point for the third set, only to be caught up by the opposing team in the fourth.

The tie-breaker set heated up the entire stadium. The crowd rushed to the front of the spectator stand, cheering and screaming names of players from both teams. The coaches and substitute players were standing by the court, yelling instructions and words of encouragement respectively to the players on court. The ones on the court were all red in the face but looked more determined than ever. The whistle sounded. The ball started bouncing back and forth. As this vital point of the game, St. George’s School, the defending champion, seemed to have adopted brand new tactics specially formulated for this game, giving their rival a hard time despite David Chan, the MVP from the semi-finals, having saved three strikes in a row. But the Royal College players were resilient. As the scoreboard hit 6:6, the coach of St. George’s had to call for an urgent time-out. The crowd cheered louder than ever.

The speed of attack from both sides increased drastically after the game resumed. The numbers on the scoreboard flipped and flipped. Everyone held their breath and even the players seemed a bit nervous. Just as St. George’s team spiked a ball to the other side, Mark Leung, the libero of Royal College, was knocked over while he responded to the attack. He attempted to climb back up but was once again hit straight in the head by the striking ball. He fell back onto the ground in great pain. A prompt substitution was made. Leung was accompanied out of the court and the game continued. Within seconds after he reached the bench, he collapsed on the ground, but the cheering was too loud for anyone else to notice other than the coach and the reserve players of the Royal College. It was Chris Wong, now in the first line of attack and near the courtside, who caught sight of the unconscious libero. Realising it was not regular injury, he purposefully directed the ball outside of the court to temporarily stop the game. He then signalled to both the referee and his coach so that both would be aware of what was happening. The game was immediately paused, Leung was quickly carried to the ambulance stationed in the stadium, and later sent to the hospital for X-ray and further treatment.

After the game, Mr Ma, coach of Royal College, praised Chris Wong for alerting others of the incident. ‘His resolute action is definitely one of the reasons that Mark receives proper care in time.’ David Chan, the captain of Royal College, echoed, ‘even some of our teammates may not be aware of the seriousness of Mark’s injury on court. We are truly grateful for Chris’ help.’ Nevertheless, Wong remained humble for what he had done. ‘I was focusing on the ball on the other side but then I saw people crowding over that someone who was lying down through the corner of my eye. My first instinct was that something must be wrong. That’s why I stopped the game,’ he recalled. ‘I know they would have done the same if people from our side lost consciousness.’

Both sides agreed to continue the last set after all the chaos was resolved. Demoralised by the unexpected incident. Royal College failed to gain the upper hand again. St. George’s School ultimately won by a reasonable 15:9. When asked of whether they are satisfied with the result, a Royal College supporter nodded her head, ‘they’ve fought a hero’s fight. Their opponent is really strong, but they grasped every chance they could to pressurise them.’ ‘It is also good to see genuine brotherhood between the two teams,’ her friend added, ‘They exemplified the finest of the spirit of sportsmanship today.

Job application letter

Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to apply for the position of Assistant Coach at Hong Kong Sports Foundation advertised on jobsdb.com. As a professional athlete, I believe that my qualifications and experiences make me a perfect candidate for the job.

I am Chris Wong, a professional marathoner, who met the Olympic Games entry standard and broke my own Hong Kong record last month. At the age of 13, I got interested in long-distance running and met my trainer, Mary Chan, who is a former Olympic medalist. She coached me during the 2005 IAAF World Cross Country Championships Junior Women’s race. Even though I did not win this race, I gained valuable experience and attempted a fifth-place finish in the Asian 5000 m race in 2007. Then in 2010, I joined a local runners team and made my half marathon debut in Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon. After four years of fitness and skills training, I participated in the 2014 Standard Chartered Hong Kong Marathon full marathon and set the fastest female record of all times.

I would like to continue contributing to the Hong Kong sports community by becoming a full-time coach after retiring after the Tokyo Olympics. I thoroughly understand that being an assistant coach requires fervent passion for sports and coaching. In the past decade, I was lucky enough to have a team of sorts – teammates and coaches to exercise with and talk to on arduous marathon training. Thus, I understand how indispensable it is to have a strict yet amiable coach throughout the life-long journey of a sportsman. When athletes achieve personal success, a competent coach would cheer them up and encourage them to go even faster and farther. I have always wished to take up this cardinal role in other athletes' journeys and escort them to their ultimate goals. Moreover, as a female athlete, I can feel the unhealthy social culture that girls should not do sports. Many female elites lose their cherished chances to brush up their skills simply because of the social atmosphere. Therefore, I sincerely wish to design training programmes for and support both local male and female talents.

Most importantly, I consider myself a suitable candidate for this position as I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Education (Honours) (Physical Education). With five years of experiences in teaching physical education to secondary school students, I am able to identify high potential youths and tailor their training programmes. Also, I could teach them essential sports-related values and attitudes and engage in on-going enrichment in professional and intellectual development concerning sports. In the past three years, I had coached innumerable professional athletes and pushed them to go an extra mile. For instance, I would design nutritious meal plans and balanced workout schedules for them by observing their muscle development. Furthermore, as I have been a professional athlete who attended multitudinous international competitions, I understand how these competitions work, such as how to invite global participants and sponsors and connect with several worldwide competitions’ organisers. Last year, I organised the Asia Marathon for high school students in Singapore with several athletes who also have the same aspirations for culturing the up-and-coming athletes. This experience equipped me with strong organising skills. With my experiences, I am confident that I would be able to handle any unexpected challenges in the association.

I have attached my resume for your consideration and hope to speak with you soon about your needs for the role. I wish to dedicate myself to the association with commitment in the future. Thank you for taking the time to consider this application.

Yours faithfully,
Chris Wong

Workplace Communication

Reply to a letter of complaint
Dear Colleagues,

I hope this letter finds you well. It has come to my attention that some of our colleagues have recently experienced frustration over the number of work-related emails and text messages they received out of office. Some complained that their supervisors required them to work and respond to emails and text messages even after office hours or when they are on leave; others grumbled about the voluminous messages they received from clients who expected them to reply promptly. The management heard your voices, and we have devised some solutions to the problem.

To start with, a “no emails after work” policy will be implemented. You will not receive email notifications from the internal email system on your work cellphone or laptop after 8 p.m. Colleagues are also reminded not to send work-related emails or text messages after such hour. For emails or text messages from customers, you may inform them that their enquiries will be dealt with in due course on the next business day. The policy aims to eliminate the need for you to take work home, which can increase burnout and frustration; often, this has even caused some of you to respond hastily to emails and messages, thus increasing the chance of making errors. At the same time, the policy helps preserve the work-life balance you are rightfully entitled to, and enables you to unwind after work so that you can come in the next day refreshed and ready to take on a new set of challenges.

Having said that, it is understandable that your supervisors may on some occasions need to reach and discuss with you work-related matters after the office hours due to operational needs. It is suggested that colleagues should reach a clear consensus with their team leaders and supervisors regarding the post-office hour work arrangement. Some of our senior colleagues expect their subordinates to answer late-night emails or texts. Junior employees tend to feel compelled to respond to these emails, as they may feel guilty of falling behind if they do not do so, even if a response is not warranted that night. Therefore, team leaders should agree with their subordinates on the preferred means to be reached after office hours.

Finally, I wish to reiterate that the new policy is not intended to discourage diligent colleagues who have devoted hard work and dedication in our company’s operations – indeed, your valuable work ethics are highly commendable. However, the management is also concerned with employees' wellness. At the end of the day, I whole-heartedly believe that everyone has a “right to disconnect”, that is to say, you are entitled to leave the office without the need of working at home. The after-work hours are for you to relax and get charged up for the work the next day, and I hope the above policies and suggestions will help you truly attain a work-life balance.

Yours truly,
Chris Wong
Chief Executive Director
Reboot Online Company

School magazine feature article
Hunting of the right ladder to climb up
As teenagers, we are often said to be the future pillars of society. Unfortunately, in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for young people to find a job that could support a whole family, let alone contribute to our society. Some suggest that graduates should look for job opportunities in other Asian cities so that they can climb up the social ladder and gain job experiences without having to undergo ferocious competition for fresh graduate jobs. Yet, I believe that it is not a sustainable solution for graduates in Hong Kong.

To start with, this proposal neglects the fact that the qualifications in Hong Kong may not be recognised in other Asian cities. It may be true that some less developed countries crave for talents from Hong Kong regardless of qualifications. Nevertheless, in most countries, for overseas fresh graduates coming from Hong Kong to stand out from local ones, qualification is a prime factor to be considered. However, qualifications in Hong Kong, such as associate degrees and higher diplomas, are not widely recognised in other countries, and therefore may not be able to attract employers of foreign enterprises. As a result, these graduates face an even more intense competition overseas, and may end up being outcompeted and feeling frustrated. Although some argue that graduates are opened to a wider variety of jobs in other Asian countries, and are no longer confined to professional and business services in Hong Kong, it should be noted that Hong Kong does not provide training for some industries available in other Asian countries, for example, agriculture and forestry. Therefore, it is too idealistic to assume that as we graduate, we can be more competitive in other cities in Asia than in Hong Kong.

What is more, such a proposal may also pose negative impacts on the development of Hong Kong, which would in turn hinder the bargaining power of our fresh graduates overseas. When graduates rush to other Asian cities to hunt for jobs, fewer new talents will be available in Hong Kong. It is also a common phenomenon that those who are able and talented take the lead to find new possibilities in their careers in other cities. This may consequently lead to a brain drain in Hong Kong, with the labour market continuing to age at a rapid rate. As Hong Kong is still developing its knowledge-based economy and innovative industry, such brain drain is certainly undesirable. Without enough local talents to support the economy, Hong Kong is subject to more uncertainties and fluctuations in its economic  prospects, which are unhealthy for its sustainable development. In the worst case, Hong Kong may lose its reputation as an international financial hub, as its own graduates rely on other cities to support their living instead of being offered opportunities in their hometown.

Ultimately, the proposal to encourage young people to explore opportunities in other cities should not be adopted as, despite having a positive implication to find a way out in the competitive labour market, it lacks pertinent details to tackle youth employment problems at its roots. Problems such as youth unemployment and low social mobility arise from the inflation of qualifications. The proposal does not address this core problem but only tries to divert youngsters’ attention to the seemingly diverse opportunities outside, ignoring that intense competitions still exist in these cities. It fails to pay attention to those who are being rejected from job opportunities just because they only hold vocational programme qualifications, higher diplomas or associate degrees. Even if they seek job opportunities in other countries, they may still lose out in the fierce competition, without having recognition from Hong Kong employers in the first place. With a narrow understanding of able graduates internally, Hong Kong people cannot convince foreign employers to welcome these graduates into their workforce. For this reason the proposal may not be able to achieve its intended purpose.

As teenagers, it is of course a good thing to venture out of our comfort zone to gain job experiences in other cities. However, the proposal to encourage graduates to do so may not be the best solution to solve the lack of employment opportunties for youth in Hong Kong in the long term. Instead, the government should introduce policies to recognise non-university graduates and accelerate the development of the innovative industry in order to let every graduate shine in the fields that they are talented in.

Letter of Advice
Dear Peter,

How are you recently? Sorry for the late reply but I really got a hectic schedule packed with assignments and tests in the past few weeks. Having heard that you are going for a job interview for the position of “Part-time Promoter” for a mobile phone company, I feel so happy for you. Don’t worry too much! Here I would like to offer you some advice on how to prepare for the interview and what to do during the group interview.

I think the first thing you have to do before the interview is to get yourself familiarize with the company’s background information including their mission, target customers and products. Part-time promoters need to introduce the functions of the new model of mobile phones to the customers. Therefore, to have a brief, if not thorough, understanding of products and customers’ needs is appreciated in order to contribute to the company’s profit. I think visiting the company’s webpage will be more than enough. I am sure that it will help you stand out from other candidates.

Another reminder is that you should get yourself prepared for the documents needed, the clothing that you will wear and the transport you will take on that day. Documents include your resume, results of public examinations, proofs of previous part-time jobs or internships and any other certificates that prove your qualification. It saves time from photocopying and will show the interviewers your passion for the job. As for clothing, I think wearing suit will be the best choice because it makes you look more mature and professional. Also, I think you should search for all the routes together with the estimated time before the interview to avoid being late. These all can give the interviewers a good impression.

You have already made a great step forward with enough preparation and the key to success will be your performance on the spot. I know that you are quite anxious about it but don’t panic and just be yourself. You are always energetic and out-going and I believe that you will be the most suitable candidate among all. Just show them your strengths and seize the chance to express yourself in the group interview. Keep yourself polite and enthusiastic without being dominating.

Good luck! Everything will run smoothly. I look forward to your good news.

Best wishes,
Chris

Social Issues

Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the article published in Hong Kong Post on 14 April about the low sales of electric cars. Although electric cars are more environmentally friendly than petrol cars, their sales are much lower. The reasons behind, including electric cars are of limited range and require longer charging time, will be explained as follows.

First, electric cars can only travel a short distance. Unlike traditional
petrol cars that are gas-driven, electric cars use lithium batteries, which have a limited capacity. A research done by the University of California, Los Angeles shows that lithium batteries can only support a travel time of 4 hours, far less than that needed in general road trips in the US. Being unable to travel long distances and cope with the daily needs of people living in countries requiring long travel times, people in these places have a lower demand for electric cars, leading to the low sales worldwide.

Second, the number of charging stations for electric cars is insufficient. With the increasing popularity of technology-driven products, an unprecedented amount of people are interested in electric cars, but very few of them actually purchase and use electric cars. One of the reasons explaining this phenomenon is the crude charging system. The batteries used in electric cars have to be regularly charged after use, so owners need to find charging stations frequently. However, the charging stations are not as ubiquitous as the gas stations for petrol cars. For instance, there are only 21 charging stations in the entire territory of Hong Kong, which is much less than the number of gas stations. This creates a huge trouble and inconvenience to electric car owners, hence discouraging people to purchase electric cars.

However, given that electric cars cause less pollution than petrol cars, the government should come up with ways to attract more people to drive electric cars and boost their sales.

Apart from building more charging stations to tackle the two main problems mentioned above, the government can also provide economic incentives to potential car-buyers. As electric cars are often more expensive than conventional petrol cars with the use of lithium batteries, which is a material of exorbitant price, many people would prefer petrol cars instead. Thus, the government can introduce policies to lower the cost of purchasing electric cars, such as cancelling its first registration tax. With a lower financial burden, people may then consider buying electric cars as they are more trendy. Not only can the sales of electric cars be boosted, promoting electric cars can also benefit the environment by reducing carbon and greenhouse gases emission to the atmosphere.

In conclusion, electric cars have lower sales due to insufficient charging stations and the inability to travel long distances. However, the government can still attract more people to drive them by eliminating its first registration tax. It is hoped that the suggestion mentioned could help ameliorate the current situation of electric cars.

Yours faithfully,
Chris Wong

Formal letter
Dear Sir or Madam,

I am writing to express my discontent and concern over the danger lurking in school buses. The gruesome incident in Korea in which a child was run over owing to the negligence of a nanny and bus driver reflects the immense danger imposed when private school bus service operators do not follow proper safety procedures. Therefore, as a father myself, I would like to point out some potential dangers and put forward some possible solutions in the hope of protecting our youth from this menace.

A prominent yet often overseen threat is the missing seat belts on school buses. Some private school bus service operating companies purchase buses not equipped with seat belts. Unlike adults, the seats are usually over-sized for toddlers or sprouting kids, and their tiny hands can barely hold the grips of their seats. If there is a crash, without seat belts, kids may end up being thrown out of the seat, leading to substantial injuries or even miserable death.

This looming problem is too serious to be left unchecked, as such, concrete actions have to be taken. For one, the government can employ some professionals to conduct frequent inspections of school buses. In addition, stringent punishment and regulations should also be imposed to deter operators from breaching the laws. With proper execution of all these policies, no private school bus companies could take advantage of the loophole in the system, risking the precious lives of our children.

To add on, another threat relates to the lack of nannies on school buses. According to a survey, a nanny has to, occasionally or always, take care of thirty pupils at a time on average. Even a professional child caregiver could not be able to attend to every single student, not to mention an untrained guardian. As a result, some of the kids may end up hurting themselves because of naughty behaviour like playing hide-and-seek.

The solution to the above predicament is actually simple – to hire more nannies. However, this may raise the costs of the operators who in turn reap less profit. As such, the Bus Operators Association may offer some subsidies for private companies, which employ more than one nanny for each school bus. With monetary assitance, the private companies will be more willing to recruit more nannies to share the workload and thus enhance safety.

The last and probably the most daunting danger is attributed to the unawareness of drivers. Given that kids are often too short to be noticed, without thoroughly inspecting the disembarking area, also known as the danger zone, some drivers may rev up the engine and start driving, that’s what a driver had done when he heard a ‘Bang’, hit on and may have killed an innocent kid in the way. In the past few years, there have been many records of similar accidents. For instance, last year in Los Angeles, a student who just got off the bus was hit when it reversed. Given such evidence, this threat is indeed considerable and can be fatal.

To remedy this situation, a set of standardized procedures should be followed by drivers and nannies. For instance, before the driver starts the bus, the nanny has to get off the bus and make sure the vicinity is clear. Also, students should be taught to stay away from anywhere twelve inches close to the bus as soon as possible. All these precautions could greatly reduce the risk of such accidental hits once they are adopted.

The danger imposed by the operators not following regulations can be devastating. Therefore, I write to call for concern and actions to protect children taking school bus from any potential dangers. I look forward to your reply. Thank you for your attention.

Yours faithfully,
Chris Wong

Report
Report on Hong Kong's NEETs
Introduction
Initially coined by the Social Exclusion Unit in the U.K. in 1999, the acronym “NEET” refers to a person, aged between 16 and 24, who is “not in education, employment or training”. In Hong Kong, the spike in local youth unemployment rate, from 5.5 percent in May 2016 to 7.1 percent in August 2016, has shed light on the gravity of the issue. In light of the recent uptick in the number of NEETs in the territory, this report sets out to identify and analyze the causes of this phenomenon and present corresponding suggestions.

Major Reasons for the Rising Number of NEETs in Hong Kong
The emergence of overprotective parents in Hong Kong accounts for the steep rise in the number of socially withdrawn youths in the city. In this fiercely competitive society, Hong Kong parents wish to retain complete control over every aspect of their children's lives. They sign them up for a plethora of extra-curricular activities and make almost every decision for them. Over time, children become increasingly dependent on their parents for support and gradually develop low self-confidence. They are bound to buckle under pressure in the face of setbacks. Also, Hong Kong's cutthroat education system means high school graduates who failed the public exam could easily sink into a mire of withdrawal and isolation because they have lived their whole lives in a safe corner and going to university was their only goal. As a result, many of them, who are stigmatized as "failures" by society, are unable to bounce back from this defeat and start developing anti-social behavior. They also lack the life skills and practical experiences to survive in the workplace. They thus prefer spending their time at home transfixed by the computer screen.

Another overarching trigger for the phenomenon is the lack of excellent training opportunities for young people. The city is no longer a fast-growing economic marvel it once was in the 1980s, and is instead fraught with slackening economic growth, aging population, and exorbitant costs of living, typical of a high-income society with a widening wealth gap. Hence, the academically inept and low-skilled youths are now a marginalized group in the city. While it is already hard for struggling college graduates to land a desirable job, it is even more difficult for those without post-secondary education to move up the social ladder. Therefore, low social mobility and a lack of opportunities for young people are what prompt them to retreat to their bedrooms and indulge in the virtual world away from the harsh realities of life.

Recommendations
In light of the rapidly expanding group of inactive youths in Hong Kong, measures must be taken before this crisis amounts to widespread youth unemployment and disengagement. First and foremost, more resources should be directed towards identifying “at-risk” youths. More extensive outreach programs, especially online ones, need to be rolled out to reach academically incompetent students who are pessimistic and uncertain about their future. Social workers and teachers should try to engage them through online forums and social media. Since many studies have shown that young people are more likely to open up online than via face-to-face interactions in real life, this approach would minimize their discomfort and social awkwardness. Apart from that, online career counseling could also be provided whenever necessary to help them identify their personal strengths and bolster their self-worth. This measure would empower young people by improving their social skills and offering them much-needed emotional support. In the long term, it would prevent more young people from falling into the NEET status.

Second, as a reintegration strategy, the government should expand job opportunities and strengthen vocational training for early school leavers. Young people should be incentivized to pursue post-secondary vocational programs that prepare them for skilled technical work and decent blue-collar jobs that support key industries in Hong Kong, such aviation, shipping, and logistics, as well as newly emerging ones like the creative and environmental industries. However, the effectiveness of this proposition hinges on a shift in people’s mindset and social values. Regrettably, blue-collar jobs in Hong Kong are often dismissed as worthless. Schools and companies should therefore help students and parents challenge such preconceptions by organizing more seminars, internships, and mentorship programs. This way, NEETs in Hong Kong would be able to increase their exposure to real work, diversify their skillsets, and rejoin the community at a later stage.

Conclusion
The above analysis offers an overview of the NEET phenomenon in Hong Kong. In response to the prevailing overprotective parenting and lack of opportunities for young people, both preventive and reintegrative measures are necessary to ensure the social inclusion of NEETS and their transition into adulthood in the long run. It is imperative that young people remain in education and training to enhance their competitiveness and that the government implement a wide range of measures to support NEETs in the territory.


Debating

Debate Speech
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, honourable adjudicators and our dear opponent.

Today’s motion is “The policy of reporting students class position should be abolished”. We, the affirmative side, strongly believe that the policy does more harm than good to students. We are going to demonstrate how reporting students’ class position can be detrimental to students’ personal growth and social life.

To start with, showing students’ academic rankings will place immense pressure on them. Imagine receiving a result report showing your ranking as the last of the class, how would you feel? Awful, I guess. Yet, what makes you feel worse is when you have to show your report with your position clearly stated to your parents. You can foresee how your father or mother will grumble about your unsatisfactory performance and take a series of follow-up actions, such as forcing you to attend endless tutorial classes and do voluminous revision practices. Being the worst of the class already stresses you out. With extra criticism from parents, can you imagine how heavy the burden is?

What happens to students who rank first is similar. Certainly, coming first is something worth celebrating, but immediately, you start to worry about how to keep it up. If you fail to rank high next time, your parents will question if you have really tried your best, adding pressure on you. So, you will need to try extra hard, for fear that someone else will surpass you. How tiring this is! Undoubtedly, knowing their own positions brings tremendous pressure on students, which is detrimental to their mental health. Numerous suicidal incidents of primary and secondary school students take place every year, showing how much pressure Hong Kong students face. By abolishing the policy, we can give ahand to relieve those poor kids’ stress and tension.

Another drawback is that reporting students’ class position will lead to comparison among peers, hampering the relationship among classmates. Striving to be the first in class is every student’s ultimate goal in studies. Hardly could it be possible that someone would like to rank last. Sometimes students are not mature enough and will take ranking as a standard to determine and label ones’ personality and ability. Students may keep the low-ranking classmates at a distance or even bully them. This may sound ridiculous, but is exactly what is happening right now in primary, or even secondary schools every day. To avoid such an upsetting scene, there is certainly a need to abolish the policy of showing students’ ranking for the sake of a healthier learning environment for the students.

The opposition side may claim that the competition created by exposing students’ class position can motivate students to improve their academic performance. Knowing that they are ranked in a low position, students will understand that they need to work harder and thus put more effort into studying. We understand that the policy can serve as a motivation, but this is neither the only way nor the appropriate method. If disclosing students' academic rankings in class can lead to all these negative consequences on their personal development and social life, why do we still insist on using this method, given that there are so many alternatives out there? For instance, through telling students their grades on respective subjects, they can also know how well or poorly they performed, and the more detailed feedback can help students come up with specific ways for improvement. By comparing the current result with the previous one, students can have a more individualised view on their academic performance and implement corresponding remedials if needed, without falling into the eternal loop of peer competition which results in peer pressure.

Ladies and gentlemen, the justifications that I put forward above shall uphold today’s motion. Our second speaker will talk about other drawbacks regarding the policy, and our third speaker will use data and statistics to illustrate how harmful the policy is. I hereby call for your support in the motion “The policy of reporting students’ class position should be abolished”. Thank you.

Argumentative essay
Social Media – Obstacle to Public Debate
The advent of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter significantly changed the way social debates are conducted. Discussions are no longer limited to close friends; backgrounds and arguments of social issues are easily accessible through links and articles shared on these platforms. While it is undeniable that most public debates in recent years originate from social media platforms, they will in large stifle public debate because of the paradigm shift of communcation and idea exchange that they brought about.

More often that not, social media platforms stifle public debate because they changed the way people perceive information. The excess information flow on these platforms implies that it is impossible for users to understand every article, video or picture posted in depth. Thus, content providers resort to using catchy titles to attract potential readers. Very often, these titles oversimplify complex issues and may be exaggerating and misleading. For instance, when the extremist terror group ISIS rose to power in 2014, titles of news articles shared emphasized their declared identification as Muslims, leading to widespread concerns in neighbourhoods where Muslims made up the majority of the population. The same happened when refugee crisis started to become a global issue. Although refugees from the Middle East came from diverse religious backgrounds, they were all assumed to be Muslims and directly associated with social problems in news headlines and commentary titles shared on the social media. The biased and stereotypical information, being spread across these platforms at lightning speed, encouraged comments which regarded Muslims as barbarians and an inferior group and made way for a wave of Islamophobia. As seen from the above examples, social media platforms prevent rational debate on social issues as users become less and less patient on digesting large amount of information presented on social media platforms, thereby basing their judgments only on captivating taglines and titles.

Moreover, there are doubts on whether the scope of information received on these platforms is as balanced as we perceive. The nature of social media is to connect people with their own social circles and gather like-minded people by use of different groups, pages, and hash-tags. Thus, a large proportion of information users receive on these platforms align with their own stance and views, or those of their friends and followers. In the case when a user’s standpoint differs from the rest of his peers, he would feel isolated online. This creates a spiral of silence, so that people are less likely to express views in opposition with their friends. An example would be the series of debates on Mainland China and Hong Kong since around 2012. People who held strong opinions towards the increasing number of Mainland tourists posted videos and articles showing how they disrupt the order of their communities. As the videos went viral in their social circles, contending responses in the comment sessions might be attacked or even reported. Similarly, those who support the integration with Mainland China had little opportunity to getin touch with the opposing views. This gradually results in the polarisation of views in Hong Kong and hinders rational discussions on the issue.

Some people may argue that social media is a convenient place which can connect people all around the world, such that communcation and idea exchange no longer rely on physical interactions. Anyone could share and comment on social issues on these platforms as they are indiscriminatory towards people with different backgrounds, stances and points of view. In other words, one could gain access to the arguments for and against a social issue by just scrolling through the social media and clicking on related articles, read responses on the arguments in the comment session, and provide their own perspectives by publishing posts. However, although it may seem paradoxical or sarcastic, it is the reason that social media is an open place for idea exchange, which makes it prone to irrational comments or even spams and verbal abuse. Since people do not need to bear much consequences when expressing their views online, it is easy for the irrational or aggressive netizens to spread fabricated information online, or even verbally abuse people who hold a different stance with them. What is more, people may even resort to cyberbullying when aruging over specific issues online, which is detrimental to one’s daily life, not to mention that the act is of totally no contribution to rational and logical debates. Therefore, even though social media may seem a perfect place for exchanging ideas freely, some irresponsible users may stifle the rational discussions on social issues.

To conclude, although social media provides convenient platforms for social debates, the rationality of these debates cannot be guaranteed because of its nature and design. To fully understand the pros and cons of an issue and make sufficiently informed statements, one should probe into sources other than those thatpeople share or go viral on the social media as well.

Popular Culture

Newspaper feature article
Gateway to Life in Style
I am sure everyone has this type of experience. You go out with your friends, and suddenly you feel hungry and want to find something to eat. The first thing you will do is to take out your phone, and search for recommendations online, in most cases, through bloggers, Instagram hash-tags or bookmarked reviews. Likewise, if you want to watch a movie, you look for online reviews to see if it is worth the money. Indeed, social media has become a much more powerful tool than newspapers and magazines these days for trend followers of food and drink, as well as TV and movies, since these two areas of pop culture are changing at lightning speed. The speed of variation of information provided by social media online is of paramount importance to catching up with latest trends in these two aspects of leisure. In this article, I will try to explain why this is the case, and introduce several sources where I get information about the latest trends.

The first advantage of social media over printed media on following food and visual entertainment trends is that everyone can comment on and share about the latest trends. For newspapers and magazines, only reporters or food reviewers have the power to write and share about new trends, restricting readers to certain tastes and styles. However, with social media, every Internet user can post their blogs and opinions on recent popular food items, TV series or films. For me, I usually search for comments in the smartphone application OpenRice whenever I have to find food recommendations in a district I am not familiar with. Instagram accounts such as Snappy HK also offer ideas for delicious yet affordable food. There are also a lot of references online if you want to follow TV trends. Aside from official pages such as Netflix and ViuTV, I also read reviews from the audience, such as those by Fong EmanTV. As for films, Rotten Tomatoes is my all-time first choice and definitely one of the most reputable rating platforms on the Internet, contributed by film viewers all over the globe.

Adding to that, the immediacy of social media makes it easier to catch up on the latest trends. Newspapers and magazines are published regularly, and interviews take time. Therefore, updates on new arrivals and discounts may not spread as efficiently as they can on the Internet. This is especially important in Hong Kong, where the rents are sky-high, and restaurants close down and reopen in the blink of an eye – food bloggers and YouTubers are often the only saviours the fast-paced public can resort to while looking for the latest food trends. For instance, Snappy HK uploads reviews on Instagram almost every day. I can conveniently receive updates on food trends while scrolling through my friends’ statuses and news feeds daily. The same goes for TV programmes or movies. Fong Eman TV also offers his own detailed spoiler-free analyses of Hong Kong TV dramas every day, which can be really helpful to me in choosing which dramas to watch during my leisure time.

Finally, social media make trend reviews more convincing with the use of multimedia applications. Take food reviews as an example. I prefer watching video reviews on pages such as UFood as they present aspects beyond the mere appearance of the dishes, unlike still photos on newspapers and magazines. By watching the reviewers crunching the food, one can get a more accurate idea of the texture and the genuine size of the food. In addition, I can get a glimpse of the overall environment of the restaurant, which is also an important element to consider when I am deciding where to eat. This advantage is even more apparent with TV shows and movies. There is no longer a need to imagine a scene by reading the text plot summary of a soap drama, a game show, or a film. Film distributors and television broadcasting companies regularly update their audience with trailers, bloopers, behind-the-scenes and interviews with their actors, before, during and after the release of their work.

Of course, as with every other type of online resources, users of social media should also judge the reliability of these online reviews themselves. As much as the case for text reviews in newspapers and magazines, videos or social media reviewers can be biased because they are often reporting with the sponsorship from certain restaurants and film distributors. Nevertheless, in this digital age, videos and blogs on the social media do a better job in keeping up with the ever-changing food and entertainment trends. Therefore, I would still prefer using these means to obtain the latest information on food, TV and movie trends rather than through newspapers and magazines.

Proposal
Proposal on Youth Trends for the Youth Festival
Introduction
As the Youth Festival is approaching, it is proposed that the trends of busking and skateboarding can be introduced to the public, especially to young people in Hong Kong. Busking has become more popular in recent years with an increasing focus on cultural life by society as a whole. In the evening, or at night, it is not uncommon to discover young people conducting musical performances on the streets in districts such as Tsim Sha Tsui. Skateboarding is also a popular activity for teenagers, and is starting to gain the attention and recognition of the public with coverage of the mass media. However, many still hold the traditional view that teenagers participating in these activities are rebellious. By introducing these two trends in the Youth Festival, one artistic and one energetic, the public can get a more comprehensive understanding of the younger generation.

Presentation of youth trends
For busking, it is suggested that during the Youth Festival, the Hong Kong Youth Association can invite various bands and buskers to do guerrilla performances in different districts in Hong Kong, leaving messages on the Internet beforehand so that the public can trace these performances. A marathon musical performance can also be organised at the closing ceremony of the festival, incorporating the style of different youth bands and buskers, with the charitable cause to raise money for the less privileged children and teenagers in the city. For skateboarding, it is proposed that the Youth Association can hold a series of freestyle skateboarding competitions throughout Hong Kong. After each competition, the public can also experience the excitement of skateboarding in person by trying out this special sports activity. They can also be taught by the competitors and professional skateboarders the techniques of skateboarding.

Justifications
Guerrilla performance is a new concept to most Hongkongers. With the promotion on the Internet, more people can get to know the undiscovered talents of these buskers and musicians. Young people can also be attracted to actively participate in the appreciation of street music. In addition, by organising the charitable performance of these young musicians, they can build a more positive public image and can also encourage teenagers with similar talents to join them in pursuing their dreams. Moreover, parents will also be convinced to allow their children to freely develop their musical  talents, instead of thinking that they will be led to the wrong path in life if they spend their time enjoying and playing music.

As skateboarding is an energetic youth trend, competitions would fit in its characteristics. It will also create an incentive for youths to challenge themselves and their peers in this particular event, as they are mostly eager to prove their self value in their transition from childhood to adulthood, Further to that, they can gain a sense of achievement that they may not be able to obtain from their school life and other aspects of life. The activity to involve the public, especially children and young people, to try out skateboarding by themselves can also effectively promote this trend and inspire and seek new talents for this sports event.

Conclusion
It is believed that through these activities, young people can become more proud of their own culture and trends, while the general public can clarify misunderstandings towards the younger generation and show their support to these blooming talents. It is therefore sincerely hoped that this proposal would be of favourable consideration and this year’s Youth Festival would be a success.

Drama

Blog post
A night at the Chinese Opera – a surprising high note
Skyscrapers, malls and markets, street food and the harbour, that’s what most people think of when you tell them about Hong Kong. Well, that’s my first impression too – until Mary, my long-time penpal from Hong Kong, took me to the Xiqu Centre in West Kowloon Cultural District.

At first, I was not convinced. I have visited Hong Kong on several occasions, but never had I stepped into the theatres of Hong Kong. After all, I was not usually interested in plays or concerts, let alone traditional opera. I pictured myself sitting uncomfortably in an open area with no air-conditioning, packed in the crowd like a sardine, listening to incomprehensible singing and chanting, just as it is described in tourist guides. The Xiqu Centre was probably just a tumble-down building situated in a forgotten corner of the city. I told Mary what I was thinking, but she just smiled. I hated not knowing what to expect. I felt I’d rather go shopping and enjoy a high tea as I had originally planned.

And so the day of the opera arrived. Mary told me to get to the West Kowloon Cultural District early. In contrast to what I had imagined, the Xiqu Centre stood tall and modern, with a streamlined silhouette. Dumbfounded, I followed Mary into the building, only to find that we were in a beautiful space with a high ceiling. Mary looked at me, waiting for my comments, but I was so impressed that I could not utter a single word. We proceeded to look at the exhibition in the atrium. It was only then that I discovered that there are different types of Chinese Operas, varying depending on the geographical region and the dialects spoken. Cantonese Opera, which we were going to watch that day, was only one of the many varieties.

That evening, we watched the famous classic, ‘The Reincarnation of Red Plum’. The duration was long even for an opera and I was concerned that I might doze off halfway through, but I should not have worried. The curtain rose and the protagonist walked on stage. I was dazzled by the extravagantly decorated costumes and set, as well as the striking make-up on the actors. Mary told me that you can learn a lot about a character in Chinese Opera from just their make-up. That was absolutely fascinating to me. I also noticed Chinese musicians playing background music and producing sound effects on stage. It reminded me of orchestras in Western opera performances, though there are fewer musicians on stage for Chinese operas. The best thing was that the theatre offered English subtitles for international visitors like me, so I had no difficulty understanding the plot of the opera. I laughed, gasped, wept and applauded with the audience. When the curtain fell, I did not feel like it had been four hours.

I felt shocked and amazed as I stepped out of the theatre. Shocked by my own ignorance, and amazed by the musical and visual feast I had just experienced. I had learnt that one should never underestimate the power of traditional arts and culture. I had imagined a boring, backward and unappealing performance before the visit, yet reality had showed me that traditional arts could be sophisticated and aesthestically pleasing. The costumes, make-up, music, sound effects, stage set and script all worked together seamlessly to produce an impressive piece of work, reinventing a classic with a new and refined approach. I would not have had such a rich experience if I had gone shopping in a mall or had a high tea at a hotel. I did feel sleepy at one point, but Mary, my local guide, said that that was only normal for a piece as lengthy as this. The important thing was that we had tried to understand the beauty of a different culture, instead of leaving a great tradition to rust in silence.

There was one more thing I reflected upon after the experience. As tourists, we tend to visit tourist attractions that represent only a single facet of a place and are often detached from its cultural roots. Even with previous experience of visiting Hong Kong, I was still focused on its food, high-end products and harbour views. However, to acquire an in-depth understanding of a city, one must delve into history, customs and traditions in addition to its main attractions. Watching Chinese Opera is something that tourists should definitely try. It may be difficult to comprehend at first and even boring to some, but you’ll gain insights and a unique experience regardless. Maybe it’s the spectacular costume design, maybe it’s the striking music or maybe it’s the world-class design of the theatre. Immerse yourself in another culture while travelling, and you’ll find unexpected treasures along the way.

Diary entry
Dear Diary,

Today I held the first rehearsal of our play. That was absolutely a disaster that I had never thought of!

The first problem was about the acting students of the play. Last week I notified them of the rehearsal time and venue and I assumed that they would come punctually. However, I waited there for nearly an hour and only some of them arrived. I called them and some of them replied that they were not going to the rehearsal! Why didn’t they send me an email in advance so that I could rearrange the time?

In fact, I was already in a bad mood because of the irresponsible actors and actresses but still we had to continue with our first rehearsal, starting with the scenes which involve main characters. In a certain scene, the main character had to jump and run on the stage. Unfortunately, he tripped over a water bottle and broke his leg. As a result, he could no longer take part in the play. I need to look for another suitable actor who must memorize the script by heart in a limited time. Can you feel how desperate I was at that moment?

And misfortunes never come alone. Not only will people cause you trouble but also computers. I prepared some pleasant background music for the play but it couldn’t be played. Worse still, the microphones were not functioning well. The staff couldn’t figure out the reason and they were not helpful at all! I asked them to replace the microphone with another one and they rejected me saying that I hadn't reserved for more microphones! How could they put the blame on me just because I couldn't predict the emergence of technical problems?

I am totally disappointed with today’s first rehearsal. I would describe it as an unprecedented catastrophe happening in my life. And I swear that I won’t let it happen again! Firstly, I would send an email of reminder to all participating students two weeks before the next rehearsal and require them to send me back a reply. If I do not receive their replies, I will phone them directly in an attempt to ensure their attendance. Secondly, I would clear all the things on stage and remind students of their safety before our rehearsal to avoid accidents in the future. Last but not least, I would search for another venue with more updated equipment and reserve more microphones in case of unpredictable technical problems.

I hope that the next rehearsal could run smoothly!

Chris

Film Review
Unsung heroines – Cinderella as Superwoman
When people think of princesses, they often relate them to the impression of being rescued and kissed by Prince Charming. For Cinderella, her weak character is further emphasised by the exploitation imposed by her step family. Alice Chan, the director of the new film Cinderella, apparently thinks that she could do much more than people had imagined. Adapting her film from the comic series Princesses of Power, she portrayed Cinderella as the heroine that would save the world from a catastrophe.

Those who have read the original tale might remember that Cinderella has to return home from the ball by midnight. In this newly released film, her mission is changed. What remains are her stepmother and two evil stepsisters. The beginning of the film brings back the classic opening scene of the story, where Cinderella is scrubbing dirt off the stove and utensils in the kitchen. As night falls, the story proceeds to unveil the adventure that Cinderella is going to take on. After her stepmother and stepsisters go out for party, the fairy godmother does not appear. Instead, Cinderella is seen dressing herself up in a tight black uniform and driving a motorcycle to meet a commander in the headquarters of the secret agent, who sends Cinderella to stop a possible assassination of the president and an infiltration of evil powers into the government. To protect the president, she finds herself in a street full of bars and pubs, the very same street where her stepmother and stepsisters go for parties. Further investigation reveals that her stepmother and stepsisters are actually behind the conspiracy. Cinderella, with the help of other agents, engages in physical fights with her stepsisters and devises strategies so that they would confess about their plans. She finds out that her family is actually bankrupt. Her stepmother and stepsisters only fake their nobility to meet rich friends who sponsor their living. Thus, they also agree to do the assassination for money. With pieces of the puzzle gradually falling into place, Cinderella successfully finds out other spies and people involved, and prevents the murder from happening, as in other superhero movies.

The director adopts a new feminist perspective in the portrayal of female protagonists. However tough Cinderella is in the original story, she has to wait for her prince to come to her life so that she can live ‘happily ever after’ with him. In this film, Cinderella is no longer passive and weak. Instead, she is in full control of her own life, as reflected by how she is unaffected by the fact that her step family is going to partying without her, and how she seeks work on her own. In addition to that, she transforms from an aid receiver who craves the refuge of a male character to the one who not only provides help, but also organises the whole operation of justice. Even the female villains are given a different touch. They are no longer downright evil, but have to constantly struggle between the right and the evil, and to deal with their own family and financial problems; they also have their own fears and desires. Cinderella’s stepmother desires wealth and status, but in the meantime fear isolation from society after her respectable husband passes away. Likewise, her two daughters desire the company of educated men, but fear that their illiteracy will be discovered by their targets. It should be highlighted that the female roles from both sides are not in contradiction. In fact , they complement each other to form the whole picture of femininity. In Alice Chan’s mind, femininity is not as vague as it is boasted by the media. It is both good and bad, strong and vulnerable.

This may explain why the director still wants to join the battlefield of superhero movies although there is almost an excess supply of this genre of movies.“We need a heroine’s story, a women’s story  – one that corresponds to the reality. Time has changed and women have a greater influence in the world. They don’t rely only on physical strength, but also wisdom and flexibility, yet the majority of the films still have their spotlights on masculine saviours,” Alice Chan asserts. “Saving the world from evils might be surreal to some, but many women in real life do sacrifice their time and energy to make the world a more peaceful and liveable place, and some do feel powerless and prone to temptations at times.” Perhaps that is the reason why the director invited underprivileged mothers to be the guests of the premiere. “We want to dedicate the film to these unsung heroines. They are definitely underrated in our society.”


Poems and Songs

Speech
The critical guide to being critical
Good afternoon everyone, welcome to this after-school meeting of the Arts Club. Today, I am not going to introduce any pieces of art. Instead, I am going to talk about criticism. You may wonder why this topic has anything to do with us. After all, we are only secondary school students and are certainly not professional enough to criticise the work of others. However, there are times when you will be asked to review each other’s work in school. I am going to show you how we could make reasonable and constructive criticisms and how you should respond when your work is evaluated by your peers.

To begin our discussion, we need to first understand what a criticism really is. As much as its name suggests, it is not only about giving negative comments. It is an analytical evaluation of artwork, such as paintings, music and literature. In other words, through a piece of criticism, you put forward your interpretations and opinions towards an art piece after deliberate reflection, so that it serves as a reference to both the creator of the piece and the audience.

Now that we are familiar with the concept of a critic, we can move on to how we can make a good criticism. The golden rule to making quality ones is to be empathetic, whose first step is to try and understand why the artist make certain decisions. This includes the background to their work, the purpose of creation, the message conveyed, and the limitations they encountered in creating their final products. Empathy prevents you from giving unrealistic and unjustified opinions. As you express your views towards the work, do it in a way that you feel comfortable receiving or listening to. Include both strengths and weaknesses, make it impersonal, and avoid rude and aggressive language.

The second rule to follow is to give constructive comments. Everyone has their own unique viewpoints towards an artwork, and it’s always okay to think that a piece of art has room for improvement. However, do not only leave vague and useless criticisms without explaining the specific elements which could be amended. Otherwise, it will just be another malicious criticism which is not beneficial to the author of that piece of artwork. To give a simple example, if you think that the colour tone used in a painting does not match well with its theme, do not say something like, ‘it gives me pain in the eyes’ or ‘the choice of colour tone is completely wrong’. Instead, try saying something like, ‘in my point of view, the warm colour tone may echo the theme of love and peace more than the cold colour tone used. Nevertheless, it is still a courageous attempt’. As you all can probably feel, constructive comments are more helpful for the receiver to understand the weaknesses of their work and to find ways to make it better.

However, the real problem is that it’s fairly easy to give criticisms, yet it’s more difficult to respond to criticisms. In my opinion, the most important thing you need to keep in mind when your work is criticised by others is that they help you review your work from a new perspective. This won’t be possible if you only work on your own as everyone has their own blind spots. Be grateful to the criticisms, and never be afraid to ask your reviewers to elaborate on potential areas of improvement. Only through this way can you and your peers both grow and improve. Nevertheless, you should also learn to distinguish whether a criticism is well- or ill-intended. Well-intended criticisms make you more empowered in your upcoming art projects, but ill-intended criticisms just aim to make you feel bad about yourself. It is definitely not worth it to give up your passion in arts because someone else is mean and inconsiderate. At the end of the day, the key is to stay humble to all comments given, but also remain strong to defend your love and belief towards arts.

I hope all of you will know more about critics after this talk, and thank you once again for spending time with us here today. See you in the next arts club meeting! Thank you.

Magazine feature article
Meet Zoe Kwan, the Rising Supernova
Dressed in a white T-shirt and jeans with boba tea in one hand, one could easily mistook Zoe Kwan for an ordinary 18-year-old girl. The newly crowned ‘Best New Artist’ at the HKTV Music Awards has nothing to hide. Still crunching on the baguette she bought for breakfast, she recalls the moment when the emcees announced her name on stage. “Utterly surreal,” she laughs, then quickly covers her mouth. "I thought I’d return home empty-handed."

But the talented teenager underestimated her influence. Hitting the charts with her debut single, "Rubbish Lady", in February of last year, and reaching the top of the charts two weeks later, she has achieved the unfathomable for many musicians of her generation. Within a month, the number of followers on her Instagram surged from a mere 500 to over 100,000. When asked about her sudden rise to fame, Zoe tilted her head and paused before answering, “I try not to think about that. Fame is a curious thing. It can motivate you, but can also make you forget why you started.”

Coming from an 18-year-old these words may seem very mature, but Zoe has learnt from a young age that nothing lasts. Born into a middle-class family, she had the privilege of receiving vocal training and having piano lessons from the age of five. Driven by her talent and passion, she has since won numerous competitions, both inter-school and territory-wide. At the age of 15, she was signed to a local music label as a back-up singer. Just as her career was taking off and everything seemed bright and promising, her father went bankrupt and she lost her voice due to stress and intensive practice. Not only did she have to move from a well-furnished high-rise to a subdivided flat in Sham Shui Po, but she was also forced to stop singing.

Zoe thought her career was over, as did everyone around her. She gave up on her musical dreams and decided to study abroad in Australia for a veterinary degree. Yet fate gave her another chance. During her stay in Sham Shui Po, she developed the habit of looking out of the window. She watched people come and go in the market. She observed the stall owners – how they sold their products, fell asleep and chatted with one another - and studied the people who transported goods with trolleys or their bare hands. “It was something I’d never seen from the windows of my old residential building. It was like a new world to me – the lives of men and women unseen and ignored by many,” Zoe exclaimed.

Such profound observations on her surroundings might be what contributed to the popularity of her works. "Rubbish Lady" is a case in point. A snapshot of the issue of elderly poverty in the city, the song presents the monologue of a woman collecting recyclable items on the streets. “I was inspired by an old lady I saw every day near where I live,” Zoe explains. “I imagined she must have had big dreams when she was young and couldn't help wondering why she now had to collect junk for a living.” She was overcome with a sudden shyness and giggled, “I like observing the little things in life. Life is dull without these titbits and stories.” This idea is further elaborated in her new album, By the Way, scheduled to be released this July. To Zoe, the phrase has multiple meanings. Not only does it refer to regularities in life too small and habitual to be noticed, but also the beautiful people and sceneries we walk past on a daily basis. Indeed, in the romance-bombarded music scene of the city, the unique cityscape and culture of Hong Kong is usually the background to love stories and music videos, but never the lead. Zoe hopes to change this. “With the rise of local awareness in recent years amongst both younger and older people, I hope my songs will help them to express their feelings about their lives, their roots and the city they live in.”

As for the way forward, the young singer-songwriter has plenty of ideas. “There are still loads of social issues that I’d like to talk about. Environmental protection, for one,” she says, her eyes beaming with enthusiasm. “After all, I always imagined myself articulating the voices of the unheard, even when I first started my career. I still do, and always will.
Personal letter
Dear Jim,

I really like the lyrics you wrote for the food magazine’s lyrics-writing contest. I found myself singing them out  loud as I was reading. I think your new lyrics are great!

I love the subject matter of your lyrics. I know how much you love egg tarts (so do I), so it was fun to read something about your beloved pastry. I also like that you were able to tell a story in just a few lines. I could picture the person queuing to buy an egg tart, dreaming about how good it would taste, and then feeling dejected when they couldn’t buy one. I also enjoyed how the story ended on a light note, with the person deciding to buy two egg tarts next time to make up for losing out this time. It was an entertaining twist and brought a smile to my lips. 

I also like how you used rhyme. Because the original lyrics to ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ are very familiar to most people and include the use of rhyme, I don’t think your new lyrics would have worked so well without it. It was fitting that you rhymed ‘tart’ with ‘heart’: the heart is the seat of love, and the person loves egg tarts!

The rhythm and pace of the lines are quite similar to those of the original, making your lyrics easy to sing. The first two lines are especially good in terms of rhythm. I do think the last two lines of both verses are a bit long and awkward, though. It took me a couple of tries to get the right rhythm. Perhaps one point to improve on would be the simplification of those lines in order to improve pacing. Ask someone to sing the lyrics and listen to how those lines sound. You’re familiar with your lyrics, but I think someone who isn’t familiar with them will stumble a little over those lines. Removing a syllable or two might make them scan a little more smoothly.

Another minor thing to consider for improvement would be to somehow explain why the person couldn’t buy an egg tart from another shop. I know what I would do if my favourite egg tart shop was sold out: I would go to my second-favourite shop! Maybe you can show that the egg tart is a special one from a famous shop. It’s a minor point, really, but I think it could improve the story’s flow and logic

To sum up, I really enjoyed your lyrics. I think you could be a real contender to win. Best of luck!

Best wishes,
Chris



Short Stories

Short Story
The Loafer
3 a.m., Wednesday.

Slacking off as usual, Chris was dozing in the security room. To work the night shift, all he had to do was to check if there were any suspicious people wandering around the building, but Chris had his daytime job and was worn out.

“Hong Kong is long hailed as one of the world’s safest cities with diminution in crime rate. Nothing to worry about, right?” Chris mumbled before he drowsed on the table soundly.

“BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!...” A piercing and pulsating alarm sound woke him up. It startled him.

“Fire? Theft? Or some rats? Hopefully, it’s just a false alarm in such a placid night.” He conjectured, picked up a torch and left the security room.

He crept slowly along the darkened corridor and yelled “Who?”. There was no smoke, no indication of thefts and no more ear-splitting alarm sound. The corridor was silent, eerily silent.

Deep into the darkness peering, long he stood there wondering, fearing and doubting. There was an uncanny atmosphere in this slumbering building. He moved forward slowly, step by step, snapped on a more powerful torchlight and scanned the corridor. Something humongous and dim appeared and vanished swiftly. Instantly, he felt a chill running down his spine.

“Everything is fine, Chris. You are no timid man... I mean, whoever encounters this situation would be shivering,” He tried to calm himself but his terror swelled with every step. A dark shadow emerged and grew larger and larger under the torchlight. A torrent of horrendous monster images rushed into his mind. Sweats were oozing out of every pore. “What is that?”

Squeak!" The silence was broken.“Oh, rats! Just snuggle back to your holes and leave me alone! So it's just a false alarm.” Chris heaved a sigh of relief and turned around, heading back to his security room. “Poof!” Suddenly, the torchlight flickered and then went out.

Darkness there and nothing more along the corridor. A nameless fear engulfed him. It was pitch-black, so he could not even see his own fingers. He tried to trace back the way to the security room in the dark. He put his hands on the wall to prevent himself from being tripped over. Time slipped away but he still could not feel a door handle and find a way out. It was a glaring fact that he was entangled in the darkness, walking along an endless corridor.

“Anyone there?” He whispered, and an echo murmured back a few words, We are here...” and nothing more. Fear paralysed him and his legs turned into jelly. He could not bear the terror anymore and tried to call other security guards for help. No one answered him. Under this helpless situation, he felt his body growing numb.

Out of the blue, a ray of warm light appeared, indicating a door was left ajar. It gave Chris a faint gleam of hope. He walked forward and sneaked a look at the room. Two other security guards were staring at numerous CCTV screens. “Thank God! My colleagues! My blood nearly froze in my veins. It was too frightening in the dark!” Chris exclaimed. The two men didn’t reply to him and their eyes were glued to the screens.

Chris then lay on a table and planned to continue his rest. However, he found his colleagues a bit weird. Thus, he peeked at what they were staring at. It was beyond his wildest bewilderment: every single CCTV screen captured his face! “Is that a delusion or dream?” Chris rubbed his eyes, but no dream had ever been so intense. The two colleagues turned their faces slowly. They were ashen-faced and creepily said, “Sleep Chris, we are here to put you to sleep. You slacker...” His vision then became blurry and he lost consciousness.

The red digits of the clock on the table ticked off the seconds. It was 7 a.m. in the morning.

“Wake Chris! It’s morning and you may leave now.” His friend, May, said, tapping on his shoulder.

“It’s day shift now? Oh! Have you met two other colleagues just now? I vaguely remember that it was terrifying in the corridor last night and I was under surveillance! It was way too weird!”

“What are you talking about? You were the only one who was on duty yesterday! Well, I’ve heard a rumour that slackers would be punished by the ghosts of two security guards who died in a fire a decade ago. At that time they were sleeping and didn’t notice the smoke and fire. Maybe you've met them.” she claimed.

Fear trickled down his spine again. Seemingly, it was a punishment for being a loafer in the end.

Forum post reply
Re: Creative writing—what a waste of time!
Posted by Chris Wong on Monday, 20 July at 09:15 a.m. 

Dear rudeboy91,

I think you have chosen an appropriate name here, because your post in our forum is really quite rude. This is a club for people who love creative writing. We love to share our writing with other writers who are kind enough to comment. To say that storytelling is a waste of time is to tell all of us that we are wasting our time, and that is both hurtful and not true. 

Storytelling is one of the oldest traditions humans partake in. It differentiates us from animals. In the past, storytelling around fires at night was one of the only forms of entertainment, and it was a very important way of passing on traditions and teaching children. In every culture around the world, there is a history of storytellers being important members of society. 

People enjoy stories, whether they are telling them, listening to them or reading them. Yes, children love to hear stories. However, most adults also typically enjoy reading books or stories in magazines. You know, one of the most popular modern inventions is the digital book, and also reading apps on tablet computers. On every train or bus, you will see people reading books on their tablets. You need to have people who practise creative writing like us to have all those entertaining stories. 

Also, you said we should learn to do something useful like programming. Of course, programming is important, but you need creative people to think up the ideas for the new programs. Without creative people, there would be nothing for the programmers to do. Creative writing is one hobby, or career, that helps people to develop their creative thinking skills.

What’s more, creative industries are essential for businesses throughout the world. Think about all of the movies you watch, the TV programmes, the books, magazines and video games; all of these are different kinds of storytelling. Therefore it is very important that lots of people continue to practise creative writing so that you can have all of these types of popular entertainment.

So, rudeboy91, if you agree with anything I have said, perhaps you could look again at some of our creative writing, and perhaps you will be able to find something that you enjoy. You might even decide to do some creative writing for yourself. If so, you could post it here.

Regards,
Chris Wong