Thursday, February 5, 2015

The 7 writing sins

I may not always say it, but I'm very critical when it comes to evaluating written material. Apart from bad grammar and spelling, here are 7 common writing faux-pas that I find quite irritating. 
  1. INCONSISTENCY indicates lack of attention to detail.
    1. Verbs: use consistent tense
    2. Person: if starting in 3rd person, everything should be in 3rd person unless it doesn’t make sense to do so. In which case, maybe everything should be in 1st or 2nd person?
    3. Grammar: in general, good grammar would lead to consistency.
  2. REPETITION is boring.
    1. Avoid using the same word twice in the same paragraph. More than that, you've probably already lost me.
  3. BUZZ WORDS are a crime and sound amateur. They are generally vague/meaningless and could be better expressed otherwise.
    1. List of buzz words I don’t want to see:
      1. platform (get creative, don’t use it every sentence pretty pretty please with a cherry on top)
      2. innovative (what makes it innovative? do tell.. If someone has to tell me they are innovative, I start to think maybe they’re not..)
      3. user-friendly (what makes it user-friendly? do tell)
      4. many more to come...
  4. INCOHERENCE is confusing
    1. When writing an FAQ-style document, make sure the answer is ACTUALLY answering the question. If it isn’t answering the question directly, you’re either asking the wrong question or you’re giving the wrong answer. Or a vague answer (which is also a wrong answer IMO).
  5. NON-SEQUITUR breaks the flow and loses the reader’s attention
    1. Sentence B cannot follow sentence A in the same paragraph if the ideas they contain are not related at all. I ate an apple this morning. My shirt is green. WHAT?
  6. VERBOSITY does not make you sound smart. ELOQUENCE is concise.
    1. Try to make every word count. Especially pay attention to the adjectives and adverbs you’re using. Do each of them add meaning to the sentence? Does the sentence’s meaning change entirely if you remove any of them? If not, cut them down!
    2. Remember that, nowadays, attention spans are shrinking and nobody has time for anything. You’ll win more of your audience by being concise.
  7. THE OBVIOUS is uninteresting.
    1. If you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. If you have something to say, make sure it’s insightful, thought-provoking, or just simply not obvious things that the reader probably already knows.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Learning German

Inspired by folks like Derek Sivers and my roommate who picked up Chinese on their own, I decided to teach myself a new language just to see how hard it would be. I found this app called duolingo that is pretty cool. It has a mixture of dictation, translation, pronunciation and slowly mixes in grammar, spelling and vocabulary. I've been using it for a few days now and I can already say it is much more effective that reading or listening to a book. It's interactive, there's funny/fun bonuses that you can earn like pickup lines and idioms, it reminds me to study, it's really making learning fun and easy! I wish it had mandarin but it doesn't yet. Maybe I'll try to blog in German next time :) 

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Who are your favourite leaders? What makes them so appealing to you?

In organizational behaviour, there are two types of leaders defined.
Transactional leaders coordinate people and operations, and make sure things go smoothly.
Transformational leaders sell an idea and get people to believe in it, work for it and spread it.
Both types are important but I'm really fascinated by transformational leaders.

Transformational leaders sell a vision that is ambitious, but achievable. A project challenging enough to be exciting, but not so improbable that people are discouraged. It's a goal that people can identify with and want to be a part of. Transformational leaders empower and inspire their people. We all know of CEOs and politicians who are such leaders. But is it always the guy at the top who's the transformational leader? How can transformational leadership bring innovation from the bottom up?
Can there be too much transformational leadership? What happens if everyone in an org is a transformational leader? Chaos?

Such are the questions that pop into my head at 2am.

Some papers related to the topic.

The influence of transformational leadership and organizational identification on intrapreneurship

The results show that transformational leadership has a positive impact on employee intrapreneurial behavior, whereas transactional leadership negatively influences it. Furthermore, these effects are found to be partially mediated by organizational identification.

Transformational Leadership and the Falling Dominoes Effect

This investigation examined the practice of tranformational leadership at two levels of management in a New Zealand government agency. Transformational leadership was defined as the extent to which a manager is seen as charismatic, as treating each subordinate as an individual, and as intellectually stimulating. Like falling dominoes, transformational leadership at a higher level of management was expected to appear concomitantly at the next lower level. Analyses of leadership behavior questionnaire data collected independently at the two levels of management generally provided support for this falling dominoes effect. However, one exception was that more charismatic first-level supervisors said they required less charisma in the second- level managers to whom they directly reported. implications were drawn con cerning the importance of developing transformational leadership abilities at upper levels of management to enhance the likelihood of such leadership at lower levels.

A Double-edged Sword: Transformational Leadership and Individual Creativity

As expected, results from a study with 416 R&D employees showed that transformational leadership promotes followers' creativity but at the same time increases followers' dependency which in turn reduces their creativity. This negative indirect effect attenuates the positive influence of transformational leadership on followers' creativity.

Sherry Why So Nerdy

Apart from the fact that it's just how I naturally am, here are a few reasons why.

Nerd is freeing. 

You might think a nerdy reputation makes people think you wear thick glasses and dress sloppy but being nerdy is actually very liberating. "Nerds" such a non-coveted club that you're unlikely to be under scrutiny like the "popular" kids. Being under the radar means you can do whatever the hell you want, make mistakes, learn from it and it's nobody's business.

Not feeling social today? Acceptable for a nerd.
A bit awkward sometimes? Acceptable for a nerd.
Don't feel like looking good today? Acceptable for a nerd.
Over-excited about something nobody else cares about? Acceptable for a nerd.
Not one of the popular kids? Acceptable for a nerds.
Despised by popular kids? Acceptable, expected for a nerd.
Love studying and doing homework? Acceptable for a nerd.
Not interested in all the drama? Acceptable for a nerd.

But the best part is you can still do everything the non-nerdy kids do.

Love arts? Also acceptable for a nerd.
Love music? Also acceptable for a nerd.
Love sports? Also acceptable for a nerd.
Love sports but suck at it? Acceptable for a nerd.
Love dressing up sometimes? Also acceptable for a nerd although it might surprise some.
Love partying like there's no tomorrow when you're free? Also acceptable for a nerd.

See? No more boxes to fit in. Makes life much better.

Nerds are simply people who follow their passion regardless of its status in popular culture. 

Passion --> Great work --> Success/Fulfillment --> Much better life --> nerdy=good.

While others are busy being cool, you're doing your thing and getting good at it. That will be more valuable than popularity, good looks or "network". The latter will get you nowhere if you're no good. Besides, many of the greats are real nerdy. Contrary to popular belief, you can be nerdy about anything, not just science/math.

James Taylor once said something along these lines: "I started playing guitar because of girls but instead I found myself sitting with bunch of guys talking about nail routines on Sunday afternoons". Doesn't get much nerdier than that...

So if you're one of those who thought that nerds are awkward, antisocial, look sloppy, are uncool, you're right. We claim the rights to be whatever we want. Uncool is one of them. Cool is so overrated anyways.

And finally, if you're a nerd, POWER TO YOU 8-)

Special note to the guys: Nerdy is the new sexy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why You Look Good

Why do you look good? I mean, if & when you make an effort to look good, why do you do it?

Is it for your significant other?
Is it to get the attention of cute guys/girls?
Is it to get any attention?
Does it make you more confident?
Does it give you a business edge?
Does it flatter your ego when you see someone checking you out?
Is it simply a matter of looking "presentable"?
Or is it just to please yourself?

I think there have been occasions where each of those have been true but lately, I realized that I do it for me. I enjoy the process of doing makeup and dressing up sometimes, but I don't depend on the end result. One day I'll be in jeans and nerdy tshirt, the next I could be in dress, heels and makeup. No reason needed. Doesn't matter whether I will be meeting 200 or 0 people that day. I don't know if people are checking me out because I'm not watching out for it. 

Why? Partly because I'm in my own world probably, but also it's just easier not to care. My days go by so quickly, I'm barely conscious of what I look like once I'm out of the house. Once I'm at work I'm in a different world, thinking about solving problems and doing cool stuff. As long as I don't have a wardrobe malfunction, I don't have time to worry about it. It's not like my physical appearance defines me anyway. It's a facet of me but it's not me. I'm defined more by my values, talents, heart, work and attitude than my ephemeral physique or even my gender.

What about you? What defines you? Who do you dress up for?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Three Random Wisdoms

Some calls are not yours to make but no questions are above your "grade".
Don't be afraid to ask the bigger, bolder questions if you want to solve those bigger, bolder problems. Don't be afraid to ask even if the people being asked can't answer the question yet. After all, curiosity is only known to kills cats. You're not a cat.

Be the sole judge who to be and who to befriend.
Not all friends are worth emulating, but more importantly, not all who are shunned deserve to be so. Don't act stupid because it's "normal".
Don't avoid/discard someone because someone else deemed them unsuitable.

Just because we're different, doesn't mean we can't co-exist without becoming each other. Treating stigmatized people as my equals doesn't make me (or them) worth stigmatizing, just as hanging out with a stud doesn't make me a stud. While behaviours and habits are easily picked up, people don't always do so. Years ago, all my friends used to drink and smoke, I never did. People probably assumed I did but I didn't. People are not the stereotypes we label them with. They are not the boxes we'd like them to fit in for our own convenience.

Monday, April 21, 2014


When I was in high school, my english teacher Jerry once said rather frantically:
"I can't stand biographies, I don't see the point. What you can learn from them? They're a waste of time!"

Recently, I've gone through quite a few biographies. Amy Winehouse, Coco Chanel, Henrietta Lacks, Barbara Walters, Mark Twain. There are many more that I want to read (or rather, listen to - I almost exclusively rent audiobooks now). Each one depicted unique struggles, illustrated the moral landscape at different times and places, and gave me perspective on the biases, laws, customs, fears, powers that influenced the way each of them lived. Wouldn't a better understanding of each other's environment promote compassion and tolerance? Wasn't that valuable enough to be worth publishing?

Additionally, I'm not sure how biographies differ from fiction. Many of the biographies are as sensational, if not more so, than made-up stories. The fact that they actually happened in real life should not take away from the fact that they recount fascinating stories of characters who have overcome great difficulties or achieved tremendous success or both. Real or not real, the story is inspiring, provokes thought, and is entertaining. How are they a waste of time?

This comment stuck with me for many years. I still don't understand it. Did he mean that identifying with the autobiographer and comparing our lives with theirs was futile and useless? Or that writing about oneself was a narcissistic activity in which only the entitled indulged? If I meet him when I go home next month, I will have to ask him.