Idiom of the Day: Bite off More Than One Can Chew

Aren't Small bites always better for one's consumption and health? They taste better as well! That strikes a chord with our idiom of the day.


Bite off more than one can chew: to take on more work or responsibility than one can actually do.


I bit off more than I could chew when I decided to  single-handedly arrange a house warming party for a hundred people. 

The office sycophant has bitten off more than he can chew this time by claiming he can finish the entire week's work in a day.

In his efforts to help others, Ben is always biting off more than he can chew.

Idiom of the Day: Face the Music

Idioms have a way of teasing our expectations by going beyond the literal meaning. They are in this way a type of figurative language. Let's learn one such expression today. 

Face the music: to receive criticism, scolding or punishment for one's errors.      


After a two hour delay, the airline staff had to face music from the disgruntled passengers. 

"Either don't commit such silly mistakes, or be prepared to face the music," thundered the boss at the workers.



Remarkable Sketches: Volume 10

Local residents raising funds to save their library! The venture is not only extraordinary, but deserves to be told in an unparalleled manner. 

The write-up below by a Year 5 student showcases her talent right at the outset with an intriguing title. The introductory paragraph discloses what has been the source of the entire funds-raising drive. This following middle paragraph establishes the background to the closure and reopening of the library. Each of the rescue endeavours are mentioned systematically; while, the write-up throughout is studded with realistic instances of direct speech. Finally, the happy culmination talks about the consequences of the library being saved for the fortunate saviours.


How to write the diary entry of an object?

No discrimination. The genre of diary entry treats its animate (living) and inanimate subjects (non-living) equally. So should the author. A hand bag, a typewriter or a ladle are as much exemplary narrators as are an astronaut, a teacher or a wimpy kid.

When penning down a day’s experience from their perspective, the inanimate subjects take on a life of their own. They are not mere passive objects of human gaze, but active agents of action. They sense and feel as much as a creature of flesh and blood.

Here we share a few techniques which will help you compose diary entries of objects.

1. Self/implied personification: It’s a no-brainer that an object writing a diary entry must do so like a real human being. The melodious ‘voice’ of a piano is as much worthy of a note as is the ‘trunk’ of a walking stick. Bodily references as well as mortal actions can figure into the picture.

Exploit the literary technique of personification to its full extent:

“I’m the sole DVR in this family, swallowing one music series after the other, depending on the whims of three generations.” (Diary entry of a DVR)

“My frozen cranium contrasts absolutely with my chilly torso.” (Diary entry of a refrigerator)

2. Sentimentalizing: Not just the corporal. Infuse your subject with pressing human emotions.

It could be the injustice meted out to a sulky roll of crushed paper:

“After being brutally tossed into the room’s corner, I was eventually pulverized, when I breathed my last in a paper shredder.”

Or, the daily grousing of a broom:

“Knocks, joggles and sweeps!!! How my life passes in these rude movements.”

3. Transferred epithet: This figure of speech involves a modifier (mostly, an adjective) qualifying not only its primary noun but also another object alongside. It entails a dual allusion. In the case of inanimate objects, the narrator could concoct expressions like:

“I’m a soulful piano.” (Soulful referring to both music and piano; diary entry of a piano)

“Mom calls me ‘a screechy thingamabob.’” (Screechy used for both the device’s ringing and its high volume; diary entry of a mobile phone)

4. Startling beginnings: Introduce your subject by astonishing the readers out of their senses. Humour may play a critical role here. Procrastinate revealing the protagonist’s identity. Relate it to some of its dramatic actions. Thereafter, leave the rest for the readers to wonder.

“I gulp down the litter of the world. Each and every day.” (Diary entry of a dustbin)

“Faces may come and go. Yet, I see the insides out of everyone.” (Diary entry of a mirror)

5. Keen observations: Every narrator must be an acute observer of his world. He takes a note of all the acts and happenings around him with senses wide alert.

“Holy moly, a get-together again! Life is lived to the lees in this house. So, I see the mom now scurrying here and there, arranging delicious dishes. The dad is gone out to fetch wines and champagnes. The kids are merrymaking, way too exhilarated about what’s coming on.”

A diary entry is a highly personalized account of an experience. Hope the above strategies will help you add shades to your central character.



Remarkable Sketches: Volume 9

It is natural for a kid to set a store by his beloved toy received from mom, dad, grandparents or a buddy. However, the write-up below really stands out due to the child's genuine expressions of what he feels about his special present and how he experiences it.
From the perspective of a review, it is well framed covering descriptions of the packaging, all the components, batteries, material, design and structure of the gizmo. Even negative feedback isn't held back and certain complications of operating the toy are shared honestly with the audience.
Towards the culmination, the price, worth and rating are provided along with a recommendation that other children too buy it. 

Ideas for Extraordinary Titles in Descriptive Writing

A title is a foreword to a piece of writing that arrests the audience’s attention immediately. It works as a sneak peek into the fictional universe of a creative write-up.

In fact, it can be said that titles deserve the maximum artistic endeavor on the part of an author. This is because ultimately it is the title which puts off or invites the readers to go on to read an article or leave it.

Let’s scrutinize today some interesting strategies to design succinct titles for the genre of descriptive writing.

1. Characterization

Whether it’s an unforgettable teacher, your beloved uncle or aunt, or your adorable pet, you can always enrich their descriptions with telling adjectives.

Show what perception you bear of these in your mind by using words of endearment or strongly evocative descriptions.

The below examples demonstrate how it is good to build on your character using rich vocabulary:

My Cuddly Wuddly Kitten (Describe a kitten)

Our Whizzy Gizmo (Describe your parent's smartphone)

A Duo of Kindred Spirits or Bosom Buddies: Me and My Pal (Describe a friend)

2. Punning

Playing with words is often the forte of many writers. A pun involves deliberate evocation of a substitute word which is similar in spelling and sound to the original word but contrasts totally in meaning. It gives humorous effect when placed in its specific context.

 A Case of Essentials (Describe a pencil case)

 A Motivational Step of My Step Uncle (Describe an uncle/aunt)

3. Revealing the Protagonist

Instead of always the opening paragraph, it may be the title which sometimes introduces the protagonist of a descriptive write up. An author can explore a wide range of possibilities in this regard to establish his central character or theme in the limelight, right at the start of his narration.

A Sophisticated Humanoid (Describe your favourite toy)

An Ultramodern Modular Kitchen (Describe a kitchen)

4. Cueing

What the connotative may convey, the denotative may not. A writer often goes en route the symbolic terrain before rendering his meaning in clear blacks and whites. Cues are dropped using certain representational or associative diction, closely related to the subject being dealt with.

 Here are a few sample titles carrying such intended indirect references:

 A Day with Throngs and Queues (Describe a busy day in a bank)

 A Canine Connection (Describe a dog)

 A Visage of Resplendence (Describe a grey crowned crane)

 The Auburn Royalty (Describe a tiger)

5. Alliteration

The time honored figurative techniques come in handy even in titling your write-ups.

A Place of Pots, Pans and Peelers (Describe a kitchen)

Super Stylish Super Cuts (Describe a hair salon or barber shop)

A Silent Speechless Spectator (Describe a chair in a waiting room)

Titling in descriptive writing is not limited to the above discussion alone. One may go far and wide scouting for the most suitable title for his creative write up. Be as unique, ingenious and original as possible. Remember – your title is the landmark to your literary creation.



Remarkable Sketches: Volume 8

How well would we describe the wonderful amusement park we visited last week? Well, whatever our review be, this child’s is certainly a well-thought out one. From all rides, recreations, cuisines and ambience, to location, tickets, amenities and staff traits, the young author covers all the fascinating facets as well as the hard core details about the holiday destination, in one go.

Personal touch is strongly felt. There’s precision and honesty in all the opinions shared. From a brief introduction to a detailed delineation, you see a systematic progress through the course of the write-up.

All in all, the rating is presented wisely, taking into picture all that makes the venue perfect for a getaway.

How to Write a Good Review

Writing a review ought to come effortlessly to us. After all, the revolutionary age of information has made critics of each one of us. We love to form and, more importantly, express our opinions and judgments on every subject under the sun. Be it on any social media platform, reviews spur endless discussions and are good for business.

Yet when it comes to writing a review for a school assignment or exam, pens stumble and words falter. Precious moments of hesitation are followed by a writing that is too sprawled, that oscillates between a story and a descriptive piece, neither of which a review is.

A review provides valuable information to prospective users. Your critical assessment shapes the choices made by people. Like other genres of writing, reviews follow requisite conventions, structure and style.

Following are the essential ingredients of an A+ review:

1. Striking Opening

Dramatic openings are the fundamental law of writing: a review is no exception to this rule. Your opening words should make your purpose clear (what you are reviewing) and let the audience know that you have something interesting and different to say.  Avoid the familiar and drab opening such as "I am going to review" or "This review is on." Beginning straightaway with the description of the product cannot be called eye-catching either.

If you are reviewing a book or a movie, you can begin with a memorable or funny quote from it. You can also startle readers with some interesting trivia or pique their curiosity with a favourite scene. Summarising your experience in a few memorable lines works best for reviews on restaurants, theme parks, tourist places, toys, gadgets etc.

There may be a hundred and one great places to eat in London, but it’s rare that you come across somewhere so fantastic that you begin plotting your return whilst still paying the bill.  (Rosie Paterson, Review of 45 Jermyn St)

When the strains of "You've Got a Friend in Me" swell up in "Toy Story 3," Randy Newman's now-classic song speaks for the toys, as always—for Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Potato Head and all the other treasured playthings who have basked in the love of their owner, Andy, and given the little boy their devotion in return. . . Fifteen years after "Toy Story" burst upon the scene as the first full-length animated feature created completely on computers, the third film of the trilogy turns out to be gorgeously joyous and deeply felt.  (Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal)

2.  Personal Tone

A review is a personal point of view on a topic or a product. Generalisations have no place in it. Readers relate with specific personal experiences, not with bot-generated verdicts.  The "I" should be pronounced right at the beginning or in the introductory paragraph with confidence and authority. You can tell your audience a small anecdote to explain why you like or don’t like a particular product or service.  Be careful that the entire review doesn’t take the shape of a story.

A few weeks ago, I ate the second-best steak of my life. (Toby Keel, Review of The Pointer, Brill)

It took the fourth book in the famous Harry Potter series to turn me into a Potterhead.

 3. Opinions

Now, what I want is, Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.” (Hard Times, Charles Dickens)

Fortunately, not in a review. As a piece of evaluative writing, a review is less concerned with the presentation of facts. What matters is what you think and feel about those facts. Detailed descriptions of the product under review should be restrained to a paragraph or two at most. If you are writing a review of a book, don't reveal the whole plot. If you are reviewing a restaurant, don’t write the entire menu. Instead, write about what makes the book a lively read, a toy your new best friend or the restaurant a place to visit again and again. 

I've had many a Nando's during these last 14 years yet I couldn't tell you a stand out nor disappointing dish because this is one of the most consistent restaurant chains you will ever go to. (Lynda Moyo, Nando’s)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire had me entranced from the very first chapter: the book is dark, complex and mysterious.

4. Descriptive Language  

A review is your personal space. Use plenty of precise descriptive words and figurative expressions to paint a vivid picture of your experience and make your writing compelling.

Metaphors, hyperbole and alliteration are powerful persuasive tools that catch readers' attention and evoke interesting comparisons by drawing a parallel between a product and an image or idea.

A carnival of flavours burst into my mouth with the first bite of the perfectly grilled salmon. (Metaphor)

The time spent in the queue at the famous theme park seemed to stretch forever. I could not feel my legs after some time. (Hyperbole)

 5. Balance

Remember nothing is perfect. Be fair and reasonable in your writing. Gushing praise should be checked by a few shortcomings as well. Similarly, outright condemnation can seem savage and unrealistic. Give equal emphasis to strengths and weaknesses to sound believable.

Despite the exquisite food, there was one thing amiss: quality service. (Review of a restaurant)

The innovation behind the toy doesn’t match its longevity. The materials used are cheap and flimsy at best. A five-year old will take it apart with great delight. (Review of a toy)

 6. Comparison

Familiarity with other products often becomes an instrument of judgement. Before you conclude, place the object of your review in a larger context. Compare and contrast your product with others of similar nature to understand how well it fares.

What a shame that the sequel doesn’t live up to its predecessor in cinematography and sound effects. (Review of a movie)



Remarkable Sketches: Volume 7

A complaint letter to the local council. It’s a detailed explication of the social, health, hygiene related or other hazards that residents of a community are constantly encountering. The writer represents the voice of the citizens. Let’s see how this young child from year 5 has agreeably accomplished all and more of this.

The piece is framed in the proper format befitting a formal letter. It begins with a clear statement of all the hazards being struggled with and goes on with a thorough discussion. To achieve the purpose, the author has utilized a number of tools - compelling vocabulary, effective similes and persuasive rhetorical questions.

Overall, the letter addresses the authorities suitably, gives them sufficient time to administer to the problems and seeks hope in their resolution.

Six Mistakes You Might Be Making in Formal Letters

Why do we find penning a formal letter daunting? When given a choice between a letter and a story, why do students often opt for the latter? This shying away from formal writing in fact manifests at all ages. The reasons behind it are not difficult to comprehend.

The informal genres such as stories and recounts conform to the natural, less pretentious and less fussy spoken language. Formal writing, on the other hand, observes decorum. Unfortunately, in a texting-crazed world, the boundaries between formal and informal writing have broken down. Colloquial styles of expression have entered the formal arena of writing to the dismay of our literary forefathers and linguists. 

Here are seven common formal-letter-writing mistakes: 

1. Unclear Pronoun Reference

This one is the most frustrating for the reader. Finding the correct referent for pronouns such as this, that and it is like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Symptoms of informal writing, these ambiguous pronouns  indicate a transition or flow between ideas. However, they confuse rather than clarify.

Frequent streetlight outage has led to an alarming increase in attempted thefts and road accidents. This can no longer be ignored. (What is 'this' referring to? Outage? Alarming increase?)

To avoid any confusion, write the noun or the implied idea (what "this" refers to) immediately after the pronoun (this, that, it etc.). 

Frequent streetlight outage has led to an alarming increase in attempted thefts and road accidents. This issue can no longer be ignored.

2. You

The colloquial pronoun 'you' is so comfortably entrenched in our daily vocabulary that it is often impossible to avoid it a formal letter. The appearance of 'you' at certain places (such as an appeal to the addressee in the conclusion) is appropriate.  However, using 'you' in hypothetical scenarios and rhetorical questions can be impolite, if not downright offensive. 'You' supposes the exclusion of the writer from a particular context and makes the writing appear snooty.

Would you find your lunch appetizing if the cutlery were filthy? (Letter to the head teacher complaining the lack of cleanliness in school)

Research shows that self-defence classes can enhance your confidence, muscle coordination and social skills. (Letter to request for self-defence classes at school)

The whole idea of a formal letter is to make your point without becoming personal (first example) and sounding presumptuous (second example). To correct the statements given above, we can use the universal pronoun ‘one’ or the interrogative pronouns ‘who.’

Who would find their lunch appetizing if the cutlery were filthy?

Research shows that self-defence classes can enhance one’s confidence, muscle coordination and social skills. 

3. So

Don't we so love the intensifier ‘so’? ‘So’ as an adverb means to ‘a great extent’ or ‘very.’ It is a regular feature of spoken language and informal writing. In a formal letter, it is unpardonable. 

The rise in violence against children is so disturbing. (Informal)

The rise in violence against children is disturbing. (Formal)

4. Exclamation Points

An exclamation mark is a shouty punctuation. It screams and begs for attention. Expressive of strong emotional states, exclamation marks are inappropriate in a formal letter. They can make your writing look desperate and amateurish. What works best is the familiar and reliable period.  

Newspapers are inundated with crimes against children! (Inappropriate)

Newspapers are inundated with crimes against children. (Correct)


5. Numbers

Numbers might form the new alphabet. They seem to be displacing words in  text messaging (as 4 replaces 'for' or 2 replaces 'two'). Writing numbers in figures or numerals is a sign of lazy and informal writing.

Write numbers up to one hundred (e.g. fifteen, sixty-five) and rounded numbers (e.g. two hundred, one thousand, three million) in words. Of course, this rule applies to the body of a formal letter (not the address details or the date). Further, use a hyphen in a compound number (formed by joining two words). Examples: twenty-one, thirty-five, ninety-nine etc.

6. Contractions

Contractions have no place in formal letters. Formed by joining two words with an apostrophe, contractions are seen as casual writing. They can often cause serious grammatical errors in the choice of homophones, such as the confusion between your, you are and you're.  So what do we do? Write 'is not' or 'they will' instead of 'isn’t' or 'they'll.' It is that simple. 

Writing a formal letter is an art that can be practiced and perfected. Keep these six mistakes in mind the next time you write one.