Tag Archives: Confidence

Five Parts Of a Story

I’ve been teaching some classes in creative writing lately, and I wanted to share some of the most important details in storytelling.

Every successful story has 5 parts. They may not always be in the same order, but they are always present.

1 – Where does it happen?
2- Who is there?
3 – What is the problem?
4- Why is the problem important now?
5- How does the problem get solved?

By explaining these to your reader, they will be able to follow your story clearly. You can use them in other areas too – I learned them at the Vancouver Theater Sports League as hints for improvising actors, but they also make sense in presentations, job interviews, and other formal situations.


The Vocabulary of Customer Service

Serve is not the same as service, though they are both regular verbs (serve/served/served, service/serviced/serviced).

Serve is the verb of waiters, clerks, and attendants, and it means “to help a customer.”

  • The attendant served his customers quickly and efficiently.

Service is the verb of technicians, and it means “to repair or maintain a machine.”

  • The mechanic serviced the car before the trip.

If you use the verb “service” in place of “serve,” it is incorrect.

  • The waiter serviced his guests <- never, unless the guests are robots.

Service is a noun relating to the ability of waiters, clerks, and attendants to do their jobs.

  • The service is great here. I never have to ask them to pour more coffee!

Connotation and Denotation

When we learn a new word, we learn its meaning – the denotation. We also learn spelling and pronunciation, but we should also look at the context where we use the word. You see, there are words with the same denotation, like “examination” and “quiz,” but we would never say “I’m going to the doctor’s office for a quiz!” That’s because “quiz” has connotations of school and short duration, but “examination” has connotations of science, medicine, and detail.

The difference between a good user of English and a great user of English is often their mastery of connotations, which they use to help select the best word for each context.

How to choose? Good question.

  • The first item is our emotion. What is our attitude towards our topic? Angry, respectful, happy, sad, or something else?
  • The second is the formality. Are we speaking formally? Are we writing casually?
  • The last is the topic. Is there a clear context, like business, university, romance, or creativity?

If you’re choosing connotations for a school assignment, like a test, also be sure to check the grammar – singular/plural, word forms, and count/noncount may all be reasons to eliminate multiple choices that your teacher has given you!

Comma Rule #1

The most important thing to remember about a comma is that it doesn’t connect or join. Instead, use the comma to separate ideas. Some students imagine the sentence in their head, and wherever they pause to breather, they insert a comma into their writing. This is surprisingly easy, and it is correct most of the time!

The most common comma problem, the comma fault, causes run-on sentences. Here’s an example:

  • I like pizza, it is delicious.

Notice that the author is trying to connect two sentences with a comma. This is a comma fault. Most comma faults can be corrected by adding a conjunction:

  • I like pizza, because it is delicious.

They can also usually be corrected by replacing the comma with a period:

  • I like pizza. It is delicious.

Receptive and Productive Vocabulary

Your receptive vocabulary is made up of the words that you understand. Your productive vocabulary is made up of the words you use on a regular basis. For most people, their receptive vocabulary is much larger than their productive vocabulary.

Trying to learn vocab quickly? Start by using words that you recognize more often. Notice your favourite words, and make an effort to use synonyms instead.

Meeting Canadian Friends

Often, my students have asked me about where they can go to meet Canadians. They mention that trying to meet people at nightclubs, movies, or tourist attractions is rarely successful. There aren’t shops where you can select a friend, so where can people meet?

I’m hardly a social psychologist, but I have heard some advice that I can pass on.
– Look for a sport, group, social hobby or activity that you enjoy and can do in Vancouver. Try skiing, swordfighting, an art group, or a book club, for example.
– Take a class that doesn’t focus on English. How about cooking, painting, dance, or acting?
– Vancouver has people who believe many different things. Perhaps a group where you can discuss philosophy, religions, or spiritualism could be a good place to meet people who share or challenge your existing beliefs.
– Volunteering can also be social. Vancouver has many festivals that need planning, charities that need service, environmental action organizations that need help, or political campaigns that need assistance. (This is especially good. You can add volunteering to your resumé to show that you are familiar with Canadian businesses.) Find an organization that you would like to contribute to and apply with them.

Good luck and have fun!

Saving time by wasting it…

Often, people may choose to ignore instructions that seem complex or counter-intuitive. A few days ago, I gave my students an exercise in which they have to find spelling and punctuation errors in a group of sentences. Some students “found” grammar errors – but there were no grammar errors in the exercise.

Top Tip – if you don’t understand an exercise, assignment, or task, ask your teacher or boss about what you need to do. It will save you time and energy, and allow you to concentrate on the most important part of it!

Telephone Answering Scripts for Business

When you answer the phone, you are responsible for the image of the company. By following these simple scripts, you can give an image of confidence, professionalism, and respect.

To answer the call:

Hello, thank you for calling {business name], this is [your name], how can I help you?

To say no:

I’m sorry, but we [can’t do that/don’t have that] right now. We should be able to [do that/have that] again on [day]. If you call the day before, I can give you a more concrete answer.

To ask for contact information:

Would you like to leave a message?

What is your name, please?

Could you spell [your first name/your family name] for me?

What is the best number to reach you at?

When is a good time to call?

Just to check, your number is [repeat number]

To end the conversation:

Thanks for calling.

Is there anything else I can help you with?/Do you have any more questions?

If yes, answer their questions. If no, say:

Thanks again.