The forces reshaping social and political reality in Singapore

Two kids holding placards saying "your White Paper sucks!" and "Stop selling memberships! We are not a country club"

This commentary by Tessa Wong of the Straits Times addresses superbly yet succinctly some of the most important trends in the Singaporean society and body politic:

  • how the Internet is exposing Singaporeans to worldwide influences, and giving them a platform to express themselves and marshal others to their cause
  • how Singaporeans are becoming bolder and more outspoken, including against the government they used to fear
  • whether the greater divisions in society arising from a more vocal populace will strengthen or weaken Singapore as a society and nation
  • whether Singapore society is maturing
  • how to preserve social cohesion even in a more divided and fractious society

Apart from content, I also love Tessa’s language in the article. Crisp, clear, concise, precise, elegant. GP students have much to learn from her. I always advise my students to not only read a lot, but also to constantly learn from the language used by outstanding writers.

Let’s examine these three sentences in her article:

This is not to say that passionate debate has no impact on social harmony; to believe so would be to remain naive to the power of words and emotions.
Tessa uses the semicolon beautifully to bisect a nearly symmetrical sentence. The semicolon is the most elegant and classy of all punctuations, and is especially beautiful when used to bisect a sentence of profound meaning.

It is also an increasingly vocal population, fuelled by frustrations over the failure of the Government to anticipate problems in housing supply and public transport.
Here, Tessa employs the simple yet highly effective literary technique known as alliteration (yes, you might remember it from your secondary school days)– using two or more words with the same first letter, in close proximity to one another. In this case ‘fuelled’, ‘frustrations’ and ‘failure’. Try saying “fuelled by frustrations over the failure” out loud with emphasis on the ‘f’ sound. Alliteration creates a very nice sound effect in writing, simple but catchy.

The Internet has allowed citizens to be more connected and plugged in to activist movements elsewhere, while giving everyone a platform to air their grievances and marshal like-minded people to their various causes.
Now you might be asking, what’s so special about this sentence? Well, it’s not spectacular or poetic but we shouldn’t only learn from spectacular sentences. It must be really tiresome to read (or write!) an essay whose every sentence is spectacular! It is even more important to execute more routine, mundane sentences well and here Tessa does it to perfection. Notice the comma, for instance. If that comma were not there, what effect would it have on the sentence? Answer: It would make the sentence very tiring to read because it is very long. The humble comma here provides a much-needed rest to the reader.

Even the smallest things like these can make a difference to the flow and fluency – and ultimately the pleasure the reader derives – from your writing. Remember: all big things are made up of little things.


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About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student of each cohort. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 530,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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2 Responses to The forces reshaping social and political reality in Singapore

  1. Mr Seah says:

    Brilliant, there’s someone else besides me encouraging the use of alliteration in academic essays 😀

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