October 26, 2014 09:39 UTC

Blogs / Confessions of an English Learner

Writing Prompt: Reasonable, Practical or Fair?

Electrician Ryan Merchant, a diabetic, finds a medical tattoo to be more practical, and safer, than the metal alert bracelet he used to wear. (VOA/A. Greenbaum)

Recently we heard three office workers (a man and two women) talking as they walked on the street in Washington. The conversation was spirited. It sounded like they were discussing a work-related issue. One said "it" -- whatever "it" was -- needed to be "reasonable." Another said it needed to be "practical." The third said it needed to be "fair." Perhaps they were talking about a requirement or a plan.

Surely the best thing is for something to be reasonable and practical and fair. But what if you could only choose one quality? What if something had to be reasonable or practical or fair? In your opinion, which is most important, or does it depend on the situation? Choose a specific example to support your arguments.

This is our writing prompt this week, to give you a chance to practice your writing, and to give other learners a chance to comment on your writing.

TOEFL Challenge: Try Answering This Essay Question

A TOEFL prep class in Boston

Since many of you are likely to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), we thought it might be helpful to use a sample question as our writing prompt this week.

Read the question below. You would normally have 30 minutes to plan, write and revise your essay if you were taking the TOEFL. According to the Educational Testing Service, an "effective response" will contain at least 300 words.

Question: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

A teacher’s ability to relate well with students is more important than excellent knowledge of the subject being taught.

Use specific reasons and examples to support your answer.

Interesting or Unusual People

A taxi in New York City

Here is our first writing prompt. Describe somebody you recently met who was interesting or unusual. Be descriptive. Use details to help us appreciate and picture what was special or memorable about this person.

For instance, yesterday we took a Washington taxi and were surprised to discover that the driver was 94. He told us he has been driving a cab since 1949. He previously had other jobs, including working in the window dressing business and in the Army mapping office. He also ran a tour business. "I feel good!" he said quite proudly of his health. But he became upset talking about politics -- not national politics, but the politics of the taxi industry in the nation's capital.

Learn with The News

  • Anti-Occupy Central protesters (L) try to remove a barricade from pro-democracy protesters on a main street in Hong Kong's Mongkok shopping district October 4, 2014.

    Audio US Group Rejects Claims It Incited Hong Kong Protests

    Chinese media have been criticizing the National Endowment for Democracy. They accuse the US-based group of providing money to and advising the “Occupy” street protest movement. The group says it takes part in normal cooperation with civic groups in Hong Kong. But it says it has nothing to hide. More

  • A rocket carrying the SpaceX Dragon ship lifts off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 18, 2014.

    Audio You Don't Have to Be a Rocket Scientist to Read This

    "You do not need to be a rocket scientist." Americans hear these words often. People say them in schools, offices and factories. Broadcasters on radio and television use them. How did the expression begin? No one seems to know for sure. But you can find out by reading this Words and Their Stories. More

  • Audio Control of US Senate Depends on North Carolina

    U.S. congressional elections are less than two weeks away. A small number of races will decide if the Democratic party keeps control of the U.S. Senate or if Republicans will have a majority. One of the closest Senate races is in the state of North Carolina between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis. More

  • Freed Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Van Hai (L) is greeted upon arrival at Los Angeles International Airport on October  21, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.  The Vietnamese blogger, also known by his pen name "Dieu Cay," was handed a 12-year prison sentenc

    Audio Legality of Vietnamese Blogger’s Release Questioned

    Nguyen Van Hai arrived in the United States on Wednesday. Hai is one of Vietnam’s best known political bloggers. He has written about government corruption and the country’s territorial dispute with China. The United States was among several foreign governments to call for his release. More

  • A miner sifts through dirt for gold flakes at the Atunso Cocoase small-scale mine, Atunsu, Ghana, Oct. 16, 2014. (Chris Stein/VOA)

    Audio Gold Mining in Ghana Can Be Dangerous

    Small mining operations are a common sight in central Ghana. Here, mine workers dig deep into the earth in search of bullion. But not everyone returns alive. Earlier this year, six miners were killed when an earthen wall collapsed in Kyekyewere, a village in the Ashanti Region. More

Featured Stories

  • Audio Oscar de la Renta Dressed First Ladies and Movie Stars

    Clothing designer Oscar de la Renta died Monday at his home in the American state of Connecticut. He was 82 years old. His wife said he died of problems related to cancer. Mr. de la Renta dressed American movie stars and first ladies such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and Hillary Clinton. More

  • Audio Iron Ships Clash at Sea

    The American Civil War was fought not only on land, but at sea. In 1862, Confederate and Union forces fought a new kind of navy battle in waters off Hampton Roads, Virginia. It was the first battle between iron ships. On the Confederate side was a ship called the Virginia. | The Making of a Nation More

  • Audio San Francisco Radio Stations Ban Lorde's 'Royals'

    The California baseball team, San Francisco Giants, is playing the Kansas City Royals for the 2014 Major League Baseball championship, the World Series. Two radio stations in San Francisco banned the hit song "Royals." In return, another station in Kansas City chose to play the song once every hour. More

  • A neurovascular unit on a chip being developed by Vanderbilt University researchers. (Vanderbilt University Photo/John Wikswo)

    Video Scientists Design Chips to Act Like Human Organs

    Testing new drugs for safety and effectiveness is a costly process in the United States. It also can take a lot of time. Some scientists are now designing silicon computer chips that act like human organs. The scientists think they have found a way to make the process faster and more economical. More

  • Brain Resource Infographic

    Audio Dealing with Distractions and Overreactions

    Five million American children and teenagers have Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder, commonly known as ADHD. ADHD makes it difficult - if not impossible - to stay with a duty until it is complete. Katherine Ellison knows the problem well. | Health Report More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner BlogConfessions of an English Learner Blog

Tell us About Our Programs