Writing minutes

PART of my duties is as a note-taker during meetings. I am not sure how to prepare the minutes. For example, should I use the past tense? I’m really confused. My boss doesn’t really care much about the tenses. He is more concerned that everything discussed is written down. Also, should it be “Minutes of meeting” or “Meeting minutes”? – Rahemah

To answer your later question first, we usually write “Minutes of the Meeting held on ...” as a heading for the minutes.

Minutes of a meeting are normally written in the past tense, because the minutes are written after the meeting is over, based on the minute-taker’s notes during the meeting.

Cancellation letter

Could you please comment on my letter.

To Manager

ABC Bank

Dear Sir,

RE : Cancellation Of ABC Visa Card

I would like cancel my ABC Visa Card with effect from now.

Thank you to offer me this ABC Visa card. – Wen


You should write it this way:

The Officer-in-charge

ABC Bank Credit Card Centre

XYZ Road

Kuala Lumpur

Dear Sir/Madam,

Cancellation of my ABC Visa Credit Card

I would like to cancel my ABC Visa Credit Card, number 123456789, with immediate effect.

Thank you.

Yours faithfully,

(Your full name)

Definite articles

In MOE Dec 10, under the Look and Learn section, it was written: “We will stop publishing the English version in 2010. Thanks for your continuous support!”

Why must we use “the” before the word English. Does “the” mean only? – Ti  

No, “the” does not mean “only” there, but refers to something that is the only one of its kind in the context. When “the English version” is mentioned, we know that there is only one English version, but we also know that there are other versions in one or more languages.

If, for example, no English version exists and the publisher wants to publish one, he may write: “An English version will be available next year.” The indefinite article “an” is used instead of the definite article “the” because there is no English version as yet.


Meaning of outstation

I would appreciate it very much if you could tell me whether the English used in this sentence is correct.

“For those are driving home outstation, please remember to drive safe and have a pleasant journey!” – Yew

No, the English has some errors. First of all, we need a “who” after “those”.

The word “outstation” is not used in modern standard English to mean “out of town” or “out of the capital city”, although some Malaysians use it to mean that. It was a British colonial word, when there were still main trading stations and outstations, which is defined by the OED as “a station at a distance from headquarters or from the centre of population or business.”

The modern meaning of outstation (outside Australia and New Zealand) is “a branch of an organisation situated far from its headquarters.” (Concise OED 2009)

Even if we use “out of town” instead of outstation, we can’t say “home out of town”.

Finally, “safe” is an adjective, not an adverb, and “drive safely” should be used.

To correct the English, and make the message clear, I would suggest writing the following: “For those who are driving home or out of town, please remember to drive safely. Have a pleasant journey!”

I have put a fullstop after “safely” and written “Have a pleasant journey!” as a separate sentence for a better effect.

Gerunds and past participles

I was told and have read: “Gerund” means, verbs with ... ing that take the form of “Nouns and Adjectives”. “Present Participles” are also verbs with ... ing but function as a “verb”.

I am still confused about the difference between the two. Can you please explain? Based on the following sentences, are my answers right?

1. Giving positive comments will help build the right attitudes among teenagers – Present Participle

2. Jogging is a good exercise – Gerund

3. James is playing football now – Present Participle

4. I preferred travelling alone – (not too sure, Present Participle)

5. I was studying when the phone rang – Present Participle

6. Washing machine is a blessing to working mothers – Gerund

7. Dining out is more expensive than eating home – (Not too sure, Present participle) – Confused

Gerunds are “-ing” verbs that function as nouns (not adjectives). They can also function as adjectives, as I’ll explain later. An “-ing” verb or present participle can also function as a verb, when it is used with a “be” auxiliary verb (e.g. “ is running”, “was running”) in a continuous tense (past, present or future), or when it is used by itself in a participle clause.

Regarding your sentences, you are right about 2, 3 and 5.

Sentence 1 uses “giving” as a gerund, with “giving positive comments” being the subject of the sentence.

In sentence 3, the present participle “playing” is used with the auxiliary verb “is” to make a verb in the present continuous tense “is playing”.

In sentence 4, “travelling” is a gerund.

In sentence 5, the present participle “studying” is used with the auxiliary verb “was” to form a verb in the past continuous tense “was studying”.

In sentence 6, you need an article “the” before “washing machine”, but “washing” functions as an adjective that tells us what the machine does. Some other examples of “-ing” verbs that function as adjectives are “boring” (as in “a boring lecture”) or “interesting” (as in “an interesting activity”), “exhausting” (as in “exhausting work”).

In sentence 7, both “dining” and “eating” are gerunds, but you need “at” before “home” in your sentence.

Here are some examples of participle clauses, where the “-ing” verb alone serves as the main verb:

She loves to drive alone, singing all her favourite songs.

The teacher asked his pupils a question, knowing very well that they don’t know the answer.

The sisters set off on their first train journey, chattering excitedly all the way.

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