Category Archives: writing

What do other people think about your hometown?

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I enjoy reading travel guides, newspaper articles, and blogs about places I would like to visit and places I have visited or lived in myself. I like reading other people’s points of view about where I live. Sometimes they mention things that I didn’t notice. Other times I totally disagree with them. Sometimes I disagree so strongly that I write the author.

Try looking online for stories about your hometown or other places you have lived. The stories may be formal or conversational in style. Look for one that you can read easily enough. Of course, you’ll already know a lot of the words! If you spot an important mistake or if you have useful information to add, you should write a polite e-mail or post a polite comment to the author.

Here is an imaginary note I might send to someone who wrote an article about Fayetteville, the town where I went to college–

Dear Mr. Smith,

I really enjoyed your article about Fayetteville, Arkansas. I consider it one of my hometowns, but it's not well-known. I appreciate your taking the time to write about it. You included several of my favorite places in Fayetteville, like Hugo's (one of my favorite restaurants) and the University of Arkansas (where I went to college).

However, one place that I think should not be overlooked is Wilson Park, which includes the Wilson Park Castle. This is a miniature castle that visitors can walk around in. It's handmade from stone, glass, and concrete. It looks like something from "The Lord of the Rings!" It's a really surprising thing to find in a quiet place like Fayetteville. I hope you will add this to your recommendations. Thanks again for the article!

Basically, I start off with a compliment and end with a compliment or thank-you. I mention my connection to the place so the author knows why I’m writing. Then I add my suggestion or correction.

If you send in a correction such as the location of a restaurant, the correct name of a local food, etc., the author will probably be happy to receive it, if you’re nice about it. On the other hand, if you’re upset, it’s still good to be polite. If I were upset by something in an article, I might have said–

However, I object to your description of Fayetteville as a "country hick town." In fact, although Fayetteville is small and surrounded by countryside, it is relatively cultured. For example, Fayetteville has its own symphony and an arts center which hosts world-famous performers--from rock stars to classical violinists. Fayetteville's university has a respected creative writing program. Former president Bill Clinton used to teach at the university. The atmosphere on Dickson Street, which includes an excellent coffeehouse, a wonderful used book store, a New Age shop, art galleries, and even a safe-sex shop, is not the atmosphere of a "country hick town." It's true that Fayetteville is not as diverse or cosmopolitan as the San Francisco Bay Area, where I currently live, but I still feel that it's unfair to depict Fayetteville as totally unsophisticated.

Today, the San Francisco Chronicle’s website has a series about Seoul, South Korea. There’s the main article about Seoul, an article about food, and a gallery ofphotos. Are you from Seoul? What do you think about the article?

Check out the Chronicle’s Travel page, or the Travel sections of other newspapers, for stories about other places, too.

Write your own comics

Here are three web-based comic strip makers:

All three are free, though you need to register. You don’t have to draw anything, just click and drag! StripGenerator and ToonDoo let you choose from their graphics to tell your story. Comeeko lets you use photos from your digital camera.

This is a fun way to practice writing in English, and you can share your completed comic strips with your friends. Here’s a quick one I made at StripGenerator! You can post them in your blog, too. (Warning: Some of the other users’ comics are crude or stupid.)

Here’s a silly one I made just now at Comeeko, which has lots of special effects and other things you can add:

a comic strip!

Writing about food

I am at the annual conference for TESOL. TESOL is an international organization for teachers who teach ESL/EFL. Many of the teachers and those who are giving presentations are also non-native speakers. It’s a really fun, informative, international event.

Today I heard about an ESL class who wrote restaurant reviews and put them on the web. You can read the reviews at the page, Seattle Area Restaurant Reviews. These reviews are interesting for other readers, partly because the students wrote about restaurants serving food from their home countries.

You can do this too. You can start your own blog, your own website, or use a public reviewing service. If you live in the US, etc., you can write your reviews at Yelp, a popular site. For other countries, just type the name of your country, city, or region into a search engine along with “restaurant reviews.” You can also search for the name of area along with “food blog.”

If you live in a country with few English speakers, the foreigners in your country will really appreciate being able to read about restaurants in English. You will be helping international visitors and residents enjoy living in your country. (If you do this, please send me a link to it!)

Here are some other places where you can read reviews: