Back to blogging

That’s what I like about blogging – I can blog whenever I want, where ever I want, about whatever I want.

My work had been keeping me busy for the past five months. But above that, it was a company policy that stopped me from blogging all about work. However, now I’ve decided to close one eye and get back to blogging.

My work is all about writing and researching but somehow it was more fun when I was a freelancer and not holding an 8 to 5 job. Maybe it’s the flexibility and freedom I got as a creative person freelancing.

And nowadays I find myself wanting to just submit my resignation and get back to being a freelancer. I know it’s not the best decision right now… But I’ve been doing some research and trying out some things. If it goes well, I might just be back to freelancing.. and I’ll definitely share my experiences here…

Sooo glad to be back!


Tips for writing Literature Essays

As mentioned in my earlier post, I was working on literature essays for a third party in the last few months, as a ghost writer. I was required to analysis stories, a poem, and drama, and write documented essays on them. In total I wrote 3 essays and finally helped the same person to edit the essays and create a portfolio of these works. It was a requirement in order for him to get a pass grade for his course.

While I was studying I had to write plenty of such essays as well, and I did well, which is why I decided to take on this job. And as I see, there are plenty of jobs to write such essays floating around on the net. Not just documented essays on literary pieces but also academic essays on a whole variety of topics and subjects. I had recently had to do a 5600 word academic paper on a disease (and the pay was extremely low!) which I will discuss about in another post. Well, the point is, since there are many such jobs available, if you’re a budding freelance writer who is hesitating to take on these jobs because you’re not sure how to handle them, then this post is for you. I just thought I’d share some tips I use to ensure the job is well done.

First of all, all essays need to be documented and include references. So take the time to confirm with your client which type of referencing to use. Mostly, for literature essays they require MLA (Modern Language Association) styled citations – both in text as well as a separate list of references at the end of the essay. Just type in “MLA citation format” into google search and you’ll find plenty of sources teaching you how to create MLA citations properly. You can find the same for other types of referencing as well.

ResearchSecondly, in your online research you’re definitely going to find a lot of sources where the piece you’re analyzing has already been analyzed. Though it’s a smart move to use them as guides, never copy their ideas entirely without adding some of your own in the essay. Word-for-word copying is strictly not acceptable, for that’s plagiarism. If you’re going to list these sources down as references, make sure these sources are reliable academic sources and not just that of a student who did his homework on a blog because his teacher asked him to. If they are not reliable sources, then you MUST rewrite it in your own words. Rephrasing the sentences are still considered plagiarism.

It’s always best to go to the library and check out any books that might be relevant to the topic you’re writing about. Books are always the best resources to show in your list of references.

If you’re more of an online person, then try using Google Scholar ( instead of normal Google search. The results in Google Scholar are mostly always academic resources.

Lastly, before writing down any facts in the essay, take the time to cross reference it with other sources. This will make your essay more credible. For example, for one of the essays I wrote, I had to research into the author’s background and things that happened in her life during the time in which she wrote that particular piece. While doing research for this, I found an online resource giving a good description  of her life and background. However, in another printed source, some details were different (dates, mostly). So I had to do more research to clear out this discrepancy before writing it down in the essay. Then, in my list of references, I included both references, with in-text citations as well.

Literature essays require good analytical skills, and this can drain out your energy easily. It also requires you to think deep and ponder about what the author was trying to portray through the many different uses of literary instruments such as metaphors, similes, symbols, themes etc. You need to be able to think from different points of views and come up with arguable central claims. It is definitely not easy work but if you have the patience you can definitely do a good job.

New Year brings Good Cheer

Hearing a good news at the beginning of the new year gives us renewed hope for the upcoming year, and that’s exactly what it did for me.

I just received news that I have been appointed as a journalist at Singapore’s national news agency, Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

As much as I enjoy working freelance, I just couldn’t let the opportunity pass when the Editor asked me if I would be interested to try out for a full-time position. I was already writing articles for the paper on a freelance basis, and they were happy with my work. I was getting a decent pay for each story I submitted, and I learned a lot through these works that I got.

So I jumped at the opportunity. What did I have to lose anyway? If I got it, I’d be a full time journalist; if I didn’t get it, well, I still enjoyed being a freelancer 🙂

And here I am now, starting work again after a year and a half.

The New Year seems to bring a lot of opportunities. I hope the good luck will last throughout the year. I sure would like to wish all of you plenty of happiness, success and good health for the year ahead. Happy New Year! Stay happy and stay positive, work smart and allow time for play everyday and we should all have a great year ahead.
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Good Ol’ Newspaper

Ever wondered why newspaper are still around when we can get all the news at our fingertips – literally – nowadays? 

Tap your finger here and tap it there and you got news from all around the globe popping up on your smartphone or tablet PCs. 

In a time where owning a computer and no other gadgets – like iPhone or iPad – would make you feel outdated in the technological scene, why in the world would anyone subscribe to newspapers or buy newspapers anymore? You can just get it online. 

But here’s the thing – how many people actually bother to read the online versions, say, on your transit to and from work. Would you rather read the news or play games on your devices?

There are plenty of news applications that are free but there are many that require payment. When we look at the payments for the e-versions, we feel like it’s overpriced. Why? Because you can get it free elsewhere if you bother to look for it. 

OR, someone will share news on Facebook or other social networking sites. 

OR you can just switch on the TV or visit YouTube to WATCH the news instead of READING it. 

I feel like the majority of the people still prefer the hard copy to soft copies of newspapers. Don’t get me wrong; they like the soft copy, but just to browse through to stay updated on current events. 

The mobile apps come with pop up notification whenever a new article is published. The news websites send daily e-mails with headlines and links to the articles. You just browse through these notifications and mails and you’ll get a rough idea of what’s happening locally and internationally. 

But to really read and know more about the news, people still prefer the good ol’ print edition. This is because our attention span when we’re reading something online or on a mobile device is very short. It’s just human nature. 

That’s why we would read a long article when it’s printed in a newspaper, but prefer to skim through the same article if it was published online. 

Print Editions have a small advantage because of a small trick. The margins are small and articles are written in short columns rather than in long lines. This shortness is what makes it easy to read and keeps you going to finish the article.

Below is one of my articles, published online and in print. It’s the same article. Just to prove the point I made above.

Another reason that print editions still make the rounds is because – believe it or not – the surface area of a newspaper is larger than that of a mobile phone or a tablet PC.

Doesn’t make sense? 

Well, it’s just got to do with our attention span again. 

Newspapers are bigger than mobile devices. It’s lighter too – most of them. The feel of newspaper is different from the feel of mobile devices. You do a lot of things with mobile devices but not as many things with a newspaper.

So naturally, your brain only associates newspaper with news and reading and that is why you can concentrate better when reading printed articles than online ones. 

Same applies to magazines and books.

I for one prefer the printed versions to online ones. Let me know what you think. Leave a comment.  

Photographs and captions

Everyone knows that photographs add dimension to an article, be it blog posts or newspaper articles. Today I’m going to share a very important lesson that I learned about photographs and captioning them properly, especially if you are submitting it to a print publisher.

One of my feature articles was published on the 29th, in a local newspaper. It was the same article I was referring to in my earlier post about the importance of face-to-face interviewing.

So it turns out that the article I wrote was chosen to represent the start of a series, and as such it was printed as the cover story. Naturally I was happy and excited so I started browsing through the article as soon as I got hold of it. It was just a basic instinct to check if everything was ok..

AaaaaaaaND THEN!!! And then I had the shock of a lifetime – literally, because this was the first time such a thing happened to me. The photo of one of the persons I interviewed was printed wrongly! They printed a photo of someone irrelevant to the article and in the caption they printed the name of the person I had interviewed. What a Mix Up!

It just so happened that this person – a man – and his wife were good friends of mine and I had interviewed them as a couple. So both their names were written in the article, but separate photos of them were printed.

The mix up was an honest mistake from the assistant editor’s part. As soon as I informed her about it, she apologized to me and informed me that they would run a correction in their next issue. But I was very nervous about this mistake because I didn’t know what I could do for my friends to compensate for this mix up. I felt especially embarrassed because they were really helpful throughout the whole process of writing the article.

I apologized to them personally, but I was a whole bunch of nerves for the rest of the day. I felt like apologizing was simply not enough!

Eventually my fiancé told me to contact the editor, who was away on vacation. I sent him an email and since I was so desperately worried, I asked him for advice – something that I don’t usually do.

To my pleasant surprise, he called me shortly after, calmed me down and gave me a couple of good advices, which I thought I could share here.

For one, I realized that although I have been a freelance writer for more than a year and have received a lot of appreciation for my works in such a short span, I am still a child in this field and I am bound to make mistakes. It was a fact and I must accept it, and learn from it. I should take this in stride and not beat myself up for a small mistake.

Yes, I realised after talking to my editor that this was indeed a very small mistake that can happen to anyone. Even experienced journalists make this mistake. We are humans after all, and it is only human to err. Apparently, there have been instances of people publishing the wrong photos in the obituary section of newspapers. That is way worse than what happened to me.

Secondly, why do I consider it my mistake? The sub-editor got it wrong. That isn’t my fault, right? Well, it is partly my mistake, because I didn’t caption the photo properly when she asked me for more details. There were two men in the photo, one holding a medal and the other just standing beside him. I just captioned it as, “Mr. ABC at an award function.” Naturally, the Asst Editor – who was busy since the Editor was out of town – didn’t have the time to call me up to clarify this, and assumed that the guy holding the medal was Mr. ABC. Mr. ABC was actually the one who was not holding the medal.

The proper way to caption it was, “Mr. ABC (left) with Mr. XYZ (right) at an award function.” I still can’t believe I forgot to add those few words when I submitted the photo. I completely let slip the fact that my editors do not know how my interviewees look like. It is the duty of the writer to specify things like this in as much detail as we can, even if it means mentioning left, right, up, down, centre or even foreground, background etc etc. Use whatever words needed to avoid all misunderstanding.

This may have been a small mistake but it is an important lesson that I leaned. Because of this lesson, I will never forget to be specific when captioning photographs in future. 😀

P.S. I absconded for a few days because I was busy with a literature essay work. Will be writing all about it in another post.

The Most Effective Way to Interview People for Articles

I had an article to write and needed quotes from a number of different people. The way I looked at it, there were many ways to interview people or get opinions on something.

But which is the most effective way to gather opinions?

Allow me to share what I learnt…

I thought that since everyone is online most of the time nowadays, it would be easier to just send them my interview questions via e-mail or via Google survey. I thought that I was saving time for myself, while doing them a favour of not requesting a meet up or interrupting their busy schedule.

How wrong I was!

I didn’t realise that what’s important to me, is not necessarily important to the people I am interviewing, unless they are benefitting from it.

I learnt it the hard way when I had to wait 4 days – in vain – for the people I contacted to fill up my questionnaire and send it back to me.

I even kept reminding each and every one to do the survey throughout the 4 days.

The result after 4 days?

One person replied with really good points that I could actually use and quote in my article.

And another person replied with just ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘no comments’ and one word replies.

So in essence, I had just created double work for me, ’cause now I had to call up everyone else for a phone interview or to request a meet up to conduct face-to-face interviews.

I was really mad for a while because I thought I had given them such a simple work. But then as I was ranting, my husband shed light on the fact that everyone has their priorities and what’s top priority to me may not necessarily get the same priority with others, especially when they have nothing to gain from it.

It was I who needed their help, and they were the ones doing me a favour; not the other way round.

It was such a simple fact that I had overlooked simply because I thought everyone preferred technology over human interaction these days.

And as I started interviewing people through the phone and in person, I started noticing that it was easier to collate the information I needed.

This is because, when something is in written format (especially online), if you feel confused about the question asked you have no option but to leave it like that or just give a simple, harmless, short reply.

It creates a gap between the interviewer and the interviewee, and this gap affects the flow of information.

In this gap, the interviewer may lose precious information that he/she was looking for.

But when you are talking to a person, and you are confused about a question he/she asks, you can just clarify the doubt on the spot.

This makes interviewing a breeze, and it is for this very reason that writers, especially reporters, prefer to conduct face-to-face interviews, no matter how tedious it may be.

This also explains why many news corporations send journalists to other countries to cover news – because nothing beats being physically present at a venue to witness an incident or interview a person.

It also gives us, the interviewer, an opportunity to ask more relevant questions, branching out depending on the interviewee’s answers.

And so my friends, the most effective way to interview people – as I learnt the hard way – is to just request for a meet up and get it over and done with.

Sometimes the oldest methods are the best methods, and people still do certain things the old way for a reason.