2018 DSE English Writing Question 5 (Sample)

5. Learning English through Debating

You are representing your school at an inter-school debating competition. The motion is: ‘The policy of reporting students’ class position should be abolished.’ Write a debate speech arguing for OR against the motion.

Teachers, Judges and Fellow Schoolmates,

Good morning, today’s motion is “The policy of reporting students’ class position should be abolished.” We, the affirmative side, strongly support the motion.

Before I commence with my arguments for the motion, the opposition side argues that the policy brings the reality of competition in the real world to schools in advance and encourages students to strive for themselves at an earlier stage. To a certain extent, this argument might be true; however, the policy also leads to many detrimental effects to which we should not turn a blind eye.

First of all, the policy kills the motivation of learning and the interest in learning. Examination is only a means to test our knowledge and learn from mistakes. The result can somehow reflect our strength and weakness in different subjects so that we will know which potential to develop. It defeats the purpose of examination when students are only supposed to get high marks in every subject but not to find out their own interests and endowments. Moreover, the policy differentiates students based on their grades and ranks and divides them into high-achieving and low-achieving students. This division has a labelling effect that stigmatizes students by putting them into categories. Low-achieving students will then lose motivation and interest in learning because they always stay at the bottom of the ranks.  It is at odds with the principle of education.

The policy encourages competitive atmosphere in the learning environment. Under the culture which emphasizes “winning at the starting line” and awards those who win first and early, parents will push their children to excel in the examination and enroll them in many tutorial classes. Likewise, students will compare their results with others in order to beat their peers and not to lose out. Comparison adds so much pressure and burden to their studies. Consequently, many students who are under tremendous pressure break down and result in mental problems such as depression, anxiety or phobia. The policy does more harm than good to the students.  

Under the policy, learning becomes exam-oriented and grade-oriented. Parents and students will focus only on academic results and overlook other areas of achievement. Students are drilled to excel only in the examination and thus neglect other areas of development such as social skill, communication skill or collaboration skill. As a result, students become monotonous and fail to appreciate other qualities such as social and emotional intelligence. They fail to discover and develop their potential to the fullest. 

As the policy poses a hindrance to the execution of an all-rounded education, I appeal to you to support today’s motion. Thank you.

2018 DSE English Writing Question 2 (Sample)

Learning English through Sports Communication

You recently ran the Hong Kong marathon for the first time.

Write a blog to be posted on the Hong Kong Marathon’s website to encourage other young people to take part in the next marathon.

This is the first time I have participated in the Hong Kong marathon which is one of the most popular annual sports event. Taking part in the marathon has made a huge difference to me.

One day, my sports teacher noticed that I had become obese and persuaded me to lose weight and keep fit. He challenged me to take a chance at the Hong Kong marathon as a means to improve my physical health. After serious consideration, I took the courage to sign up for the Hong Kong marathon and commit myself to a half marathon. This is how I started marathon running.

To prepare myself for the Hong Kong marathon, at first, I went running for 5km daily at a very slow speed. It felt good and easy. When I got used to 5km, I gradually stepped up to 10km and then 15km. The longer the race, the more tired and weary I felt. I did not feel like going on. Nonetheless, I insisted on moving forward. When it came to half-marathon, I became short of breath and started to suffer muscle cramps and knee pain. I felt so dizzy and painful in the middle of the run that I wanted so much to give up and go back to my comfort zone. I failed many times to complete the whole race. To overcome the failure, I adjusted my breathing method and did more stretching exercises before running. After constant practice, running a half-marathon was not as daunting and frustrating as before. When I successfully overcame the discomfort and finished the half-marathon in the competition, I had a sense of achievement and thus boost my confidence. 

Running a marathon also helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life. Before I took up marathon, I had always stuck to my mobile phone and used social media for many hours to pass my time. When running a full-marathon in the Hong Kong marathon has become my goal, I spend my spare time on training and exercising which cures my addiction to social media. Moreover, after I have developed a passion for marathon, it enhances my resilience and builds my endurance. I believe that I am able to face adversity and overcome hardship in the course of life. 

Had I not participated in the Hong Kong marathon, I would not have become the person I am now. Trying the Hong Kong marathon will definitely change your life and make you a stronger person. If you want to have an amazing experience like mine, don’t miss out the coming Hong Kong marathon.

2018 DSE English Writing Question 7 (Sample)

Learning English through Drama

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (HKAPA) wants to encourage more people to watch stage plays. To do this, they want to show video-recordings of live drama performance from theatres all over the world.

You have just watched one of these recordings. Write an article for Showbiz magazine discussing whether these recordings are a good way to attract more people to watch stage plays.

From Video-recordings To Stage Plays

Many people might have heard of stage plays, but how many of them will actually buy a ticket to watch them in the theatre? To cultivate general public interest in watching stage plays, HKAPA proposes to show video-recordings of live drama performance from theatres all over the world. Recently, I have watched one of the video-recordings shown by HKAPA, the internationally acclaimed musical Les Miserables performed by London Theatre. The experience is amazing. I believe that these video-recordings would be a good way to attract more people to watch stage plays.

Video-recording is a cheap and convenient means for the general public to try watching stage plays. Drama is not only a less popular form of art but also an expensive kind of entertainment. As the cost of watching a drama video is very low and drama videos are more accessible, if you find the drama daunting or boring, you can always give up watching in the middle of the play. For instance, if you are impatient with the three-hour long musical Les Miserables which consists of a number of acts and scenes, you can always walk out and stop watching it. Besides, I have never watched Les Miserables on the stage, but after I watch its video, I become very interested in the musical and have a strong desire to watch its live drama performance. Therefore, video-recordings help enhance the incentive of the general public to try watching stage plays.

Video-recording helps introduce the general public to stage plays of different genres and subject matters. Some plays are tragedy which carries heavy messages whereas some plays are comedy which is amusing, funny and light-hearted. For example, the classic literature Les Miserables by the French writer Victor Hugo is considered to be serious and daunting, but when I watch the musical on the video, I am attracted to its lofty themes such as human suffering, injustice and revolution because of its engaging presentation. People can discover which types of stage plays interest them through watching video-recordings.

As the video-recordings are of very high quality, it feels like watching live drama performance on the stage. When I watch Les Miserables on the video, I find that each scene is intriguing with its intense atmosphere, fancy costumes, state-of-the-art lighting and sound effects, magnificent props and set design, impressive make-up, sophisticated facial expressions of the characters, brilliant orchestra and first-class performance. The songs and lyrics are so touching and powerful that they pierce into my heart. The vocalists are overflowing with passion and feelings. The actors and actresses deliver the lines with vigor and energy. Their voice displays rhythm and emotions. The whole performance is breathtaking, not to mention the real live stage performance.

Video-recording can never replace the spectacular view and wonderful experience of live drama performance. However, it is definitely a good way to introduce the less popular form of art to the general public and attract them to go to watch stage plays in the theatre.

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 2 (Sample)

Learning English through Workplace Communication

You are the boss of Reboot Online Company and you have recently received complaints from some staff about the number of work-related emails and text messages received out of office.

Write a letter to staff addressing their complaints.

Dear fellow staff,

I am writing in response to the complaints lodged by some staff about the number of work-related emails and text messages received out of office. After looking into the matter, I would like to address the problem as follows.

It is a general practice that staff ought not to take on further workload when they are out of office. “Out of office” refers to two conditions. First, you are physically not in the office outside office hours. Second, you are on annual leave or sick leave during office hours. Under these two circumstances, you are not supposed to carry out any job duties. If you are receiving job instructions out of office, that means you are working overtime. As a general policy, overtime work should be limited to urgent work, heavy workloads or emergencies only so that staff can maintain work-life balance and a healthy life. 

However, the recent situation has changed. In view of business expansion in the emerging markets, the demand for our technology service has grown a great deal. Clients become more demanding and the business environment in these markets is very competitive and challenging. As a result, we are expected to deliver our service much faster than usual. Therefore, you are receiving work-related emails and messages delegated by your supervisors when you are out of office.  

It is understandable that too much overtime work will pose a threat to staff’s health and lower their productivity. To prevent our staff from being overloaded, there will be a special arrangement for out-of-office job instructions. First, supervisors should decide whether the tasks are really urgent before delegating to their subordinates. Second, staff whose grade is below supervisory level can communicate to their seniors whether they still have capacity for the assigned work. Third, an overtime timesheet system will be brought in to keep the overtime that staff spends on their tasks or job duties each day. If staff keeps working overtime for an unreasonable amount of time, they should report to their seniors with their timesheets. For example, if a staff member is sick and gets off work on time, he should report to his supervisors that he is unable to do any more tasks out of office. Or, if a staff member is already very busy with his current tasks, he should report to his supervisors that he does not have any further capacity for any duties out of office. It is hoped that close communication between seniors and subordinates can help staff make a balance between work and life.

It is always our company’s principle that our staff and employees are the most valuable asset and that they can achieve a healthy work-life balance. Frequent and excessive overtime work out of office at the expense of employees’ health should not be allowed. The new measures should alleviate the worst condition. 

As the business environment continues to be challenging, I sincerely hope that we can work things out together and endure hard times hand in hand.  

Yours faithfully, 

Chris Wong

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 8 (Sample)

Learning English through Poems and Songs

Poetry House is offering a scholarship for ten young writers to attend their summer poetry workshop. The workshop will promote the art and craft of poetry in a creative environment and participants will have a chance to discuss their work with guest poets from around the world.

Write an application letter, explaining your interest in poetry and why you should be selected to take part in this workshop.

Dear Sir,

Application for Poetry House Scholarship for Summer Poetry Workshop

I am writing to apply for the Poetry House scholarship to attend the summer poetry workshop. It has always been my dream to meet with internationally renowned poets and learn poetry writing from them face-to-face. I have been interested in poetry reading and writing since junior secondary form. There are a few reasons why I am interested in poetry. 

First of all, poetry is a creative form which can convey a variety of messages in a concise and interesting way. Unlike short stories or novels which normally tell stories ranging from a number of pages to hundreds of pages, poems are generally written in several stanzas and are used for different purposes. I can write in just a few lines to describe an object, express my feelings, narrate an important event, reflect on a meaningful experience, present my point of view about something or just to send a lovely message to my friend. It is a much easier and more convenient vehicle for me to try creative writing as a layman on different kinds of subjects and themes. For example, I can mimic some short poems by well-known poets. As a young writer, when I can successfully write a poem, I have a sense of satisfaction which encourages me to experiment with writing different kinds of poems.  

Moreover, poetry broadens my mind and expands my imagination. By making use of poetic devices, poems are composed in an uncommon way. For example, the poem ‘Color’ by Christina Rossetti associates different colors with different things in nature. It paints a creative picture in my mind using different images. Also, the use of metaphor helps me think of ordinary things in a new perspective and refresh my ordinary life experience. Poetry helps me see simple things imaginatively. 

Furthermore, poetry helps express my emotions and achieves inner healing. For instance, when I read “Autobiographia Literaria” by Frank O’hara, I can identify with the poet’s loneliness in his childhood and his amazement in the discovery of poetry. It makes me feel that someone who has the same life experience empathizes with me and that I am not alone in the world. It is emotionally therapeutic for me. 

I am eager to take this precious opportunity to participate in the poetry workshop because I can not only learn to compose poems under the guidance of the guest poets in a creative environment, but also discuss with them how my work relates to the Hong Kong context. After the workshop, I am sure I can contribute to the poetry development in Hong Kong by creating more poems with local voices. Besides, as an underprivileged student, I am lacking in both funds and favourable environment to support my pursuit of poetry writing. Therefore, the scholarship is an important passport for me to open my eyes to the latest ideas about poetry writing. In addition to my strong interest in poetry, I am a poetry club chairman at my school and I have won an award in the latest Hong Kong poetry competition. I enclose my poetry work portfolio for your information. I would be grateful if I am given a consideration for the scholarship and am offered a place in the workshop. I look forward to receiving your reply soon.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Wong

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 4 (Sample)

Learning English through Social Issues

You write an advice column for Teen magazine and you have received the following letter:

I’ve been thinking about my future. I love animals and I’ve always wanted to be a vet. But when I told my parents, the first thing they said was ‘No’. I feel really frustrated. What should I do? – J.C. 16 years old

Write a letter of advice.

Dear J.C.,

I am writing in response to your letter concerning your choice of future career. I am sorry to hear about your frustration and would like to offer some advice to you.

First of all, you should understand the worries of your parents about your future. Although you love animals, it is hard to make a living as a vet in Hong Kong. In general, it is not common for people in Hong Kong to keep pets as there are many residential buildings which ban keeping pets. As a result, the demand for a vet in Hong Kong is very low and the job market for a vet is very small. You have to be exceptionally competent in order to secure an employment as a vet in Hong Kong. You might think that you can work as a vet in foreign countries. However, it is hard for a vet to apply for a work visa in other countries. Even if you are allowed to work overseas as a vet, you will have to leave your homeland and will need to face many problems living and working overseas such as culture shock and communication barrier. Other problems may come along.

Second, you should know that it is difficult to turn interests into career. There are many people who like singing, drawing and dancing. In fact, however, very few of them can work as a singer, a painter or a dancer and make a decent living. There is only one in a thousand chance that you can develop a successful career from your interests. More often is that interests remain hobbies in your spare time. For example, you may think about being a part-time volunteer at SPAC to help take care of abandoned animals in your free time. 

Third, you should know that you can always choose to be a vet. You may first think about a more practical career like dentistry or nursing, earn enough money, then study a part-time vet programme and open a pet shop if you like. People pursue a second career after they make enough money to realise their dream. 

After considering the above obstacles, if you still want to be a vet as your first career choice, then you should try to convince your parents that you want to follow your passion and that you are able to overcome the obstacles in the pursuit of your career as a vet. You have to show them that you understand all the negative sides of following your dream and that you agree to bear all the responsibility and consequence of your choice. 

To pursue one’s dream is never easy. I hope the above suggestions are helpful to you.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Wong

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2018 DSE English Writing Question 6 (Sample)

Learning English through Popular Culture

‘Athleisure’ is currently one of the biggest trends in the fashion industry. This is a term for clothes that can be worn both for exercises and as everyday wear.

Write an article for the local newspaper explaining possible reasons for the rise in popularity of athleisure.

Athleisure – A Healthy Lifestyle

Athleisure has become popular and has set the fashion trend in recent years. Basically, athleisure means athletics and leisure.  People wear sports clothing not only for exercising but also for casual occasions. They wear yoga pants, gym clothes, sports tops and shorts, leggings, sneakers and shoes as everyday wear.  There are several reasons why athleisure is so popular.

Most people are now living and working under pressure in the city. Normally, they spend at least 8 hours stuck sitting in the air-conditioned office working with the computers. It easily leads to stress, headache, muscle fatigue, back pain and other body-related problems.  They are in need of stretching, breathing and exercising to reduce stress and keep their body healthy. As a result, the concept of living a healthy lifestyle becomes so popular with the office workers that yoga studios, gym rooms and fitness centres are opened everywhere to cater for their needs. They wear sportswear outfit to go to these fitness centres to do exercises on a regular basis to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, athleisure comes with the healthy lifestyle and becomes trendy fashion.

As fast-food diet is common to our everyday life, many people are overweight and have the problem of obesity. Many celebrities also face the same issue. They usually upload photos and videos of their workout process and result on their social media accounts to advertise the concept of athletics, sportsmanship and healthy lifestyle as well as their sportswear sponsorship since they are representative of some sportswear brands. People are easily attracted to their outfits, efforts and workout performance and follow suit. Moreover, as the newspapers and magazines are full of the celebrities’ success stories of weight loss through exercising to achieve a perfect figure and wear slim sportswear outfit, the general people are easily influenced to follow the trend. With the impact of celebrities, athleisure becomes a popular trend.

In recent years, the annual marathon competition has become so popular that it has attracted thousands of people to take part in. People from all walks of life are interested in joining the marathon run. To prepare themselves for the competition, they have to keep training themselves throughout the year. The marathon run is now a major sports event in Hong Kong and has spread its influence among the general public. It has created a culture of athletics. This is one of the driving force behind athleisure. 

Last but not least, sportswear products are trendy and fashionable. They offer both comfort and a taste of fashion. Comfort wear is preferable to denim jeans because not only the fabrics used serves the purpose of comfort, durability and flexibility, but also its design is stylish as well. So athleisure becomes fashionable and is much sought after.

In short, athleisure is equal to healthy lifestyle. As long as people are obsessed with health pursuit, athleisure will sustain and continue to set the trend in the fashion industry.

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2019 DSE English Writing Question 2 (Sample)

Learning English through Social Issues

The following excerpt appeared in an article in the Hong Kong Daily Press:

To participate in today’s global economy, companies hire individuals whose skills and talent meet standards of excellence. One hundred years ago, people were hired from within the local community but today the best individuals are hired from around the world.

  • Write an essay for your English teacher
  • Explain some of the benefits and challenges international talent brings to Hong Kong society and ways to ensure that people from the local community are not neglected
  • Include a title for your essay

Local Talent in Danger

As the world is undergoing globalization in the 21st century, business is becoming international. Companies are eager to recruit global talent to cater for the demand of business as they have to co-operate with companies and countries worldwide to develop and expand their business. While there are benefits to Hong Kong society and economy by hiring global talent, there are also challenges to the local community.

The benefits brought about by global talent are numerous. First of all, it can diversify the local workforce so that they can learn to work with people from other languages, cultures and countries. It increases their international exposure. Second, it can satisfy the needs of multinational companies or international corporate which set their headquarters and branches in Hong Kong. An Indian manager stationed in Hong Kong is more likely to know how to communicate with his fellow colleagues in India and oversee the business performance in his home country than local counterparts. Moreover, it brings in the necessary and professional knowledge and skills to help build and develop business. For example, the Hong Kong branch of US-based international company Apple employs tech-savvy and IT talent from India to bring in the first-class information technology knowledge and skill to assist the business development in Hong Kong. Lastly, with the inflow of foreign talent, it brings in innovative ideas and insights into the local business and avoids brain drain of the talent pool in Hong Kong.

Despite the positive effects mentioned above, there are negative sides to the input of global talent. First, it increases the competition of local job market. Local talent is compelled to compete with global talent in order to secure a place in internationally renowned companies. In terms of language, international experience and professional knowledge, they may pale in comparison and thus lose out the opportunities of getting hired. Second, it is difficult for local talent to find a good job with potential development. As well-paid jobs are filled up by global talent, local talent is only left with jobs without good prospects and benefits. As a result, global talent seemingly “steals the rice bowl” of local talent and affects its social mobility.

In order to prevent local talent from being neglected, the Government should take certain measures to tackle the problem. For example, it should allocate more resources to the education sector, particularly higher education sector, to attract more internationally-renowned talent or scholars to foster and nurture our local students and to expand their horizons so that our students can also measure up to international standard. The Government should also set up education funds to subsidize our university students to participate in foreign exchange programs.

As the inception of global talent is inevitable, local people should not lose heart but work hard to make themselves unique, useful and competent so as to increase the competitive edge and “protect the rice bowl”.

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2019 DSE English Writing Question 5 (Sample)

5. Learning English through Popular Culture

This week’s question in the Young Post’s Over to You column is:

Where do you get information about the latest trends in pop culture? Do you turn to newspapers and magazines or do you prefer blogs and videos on social media?

  • Write an article for the Over to You column
  • Choose one or two areas of pop culture from the chart below and tell readers where you like to get information about the latest trends. Provide the name of the sources you recommend
  • Give your article a title

Areas of Pop Culture

TV & MoviesMusic & ConcertsFood & DrinkStyle & BeautyTech & Games

Get Connected Online to Pop Culture


Nowadays, due to the advancement of technology, people can receive news and information online from the internet in addition to traditional newspapers and magazines in print. As teenagers born in the digital age, I prefer blogs, websites and social media sites to newspapers and magazines to get information about the latest pop culture because it is cheap, fast and convenient and is also easy to share the information with family and friends. There are two areas of pop culture which I am particularly interested. They are food and drink, and style and beauty. I am keen to share with you and recommend the following sources where you can get the latest and interesting information about these two areas of pop culture.

For food and drink, there are several channels where you can get to know the latest popular cuisine and delicious dishes. Go to U Magazine Facebook Page which features the most popular food among the teenagers. For example, each month, it covers a story about affordable local specialties favored by teenagers, such as HeyTea, the tea-drink brand which blends tea drinks with fresh milk, cream and fruit. From the built-in comment boxes, you can see reviews about the customer experience of the product quality. Also, very often, it features hidden gems found in the city, such as egg tarts, egg waffles, pancakes and soufflé etc. Apart from U Magazine, another way is to try Eat Weekly Instagram page which publishes photos and descriptions of seasonal food promoted by different eateries and restaurants, such as spicy chicken hotpot, Japanese Toro and Sashimi, A5 beef eat-unlimited buffet etc. There are also video posts about the preparation or cooking process of different dishes which enhance your visual appetite.

For style and beauty, despite the Facebook and Instagram Page of the fashion and beauty brands where you can easily see up-to-date information about the hottest products, you can turn to renowned blogs to get access to the latest trends in fashion and beauty. One of the famous blogs called Trendy Zone composed by a fashion and beauty consultant and blogger Victoria Chu is my favourite choice. Each day, there is a blog entry about the best selected clothes and the best bargain clothes among the popular fashion brands. Besides, there is another blog entry about how to mix and match different clothes together with stylish make-up to give a trendy and chic look. The recommendations are professional and well-received by teenagers.

If you are one of those who like to keep abreast of the trend in pop culture, I would definitely recommend the above sources where you can follow the latest teen pop. I hope you will have a well-informed choice before you head for food and fashion.

2019 DSE English Writing Question 7 (Sample)

7. Learning English through Poems and Songs

Taylor Swift is an award-winning singer-songwriter. In an interview with Parade magazine she said:

I wrote the song ‘Mean’ about a critic who kept giving me really bad reviews. I get that, no matter what, people will criticise what you do. But there are different ways to criticise someone… and there’s a line that you cross when you just start to attack everything about a person.

You lead an after-school arts club. You would like to instruct members on how to review each other’s work.

  • Write a speech to be delivered to club members
  • Discuss what a critic does, how to give criticism and ways to respond to criticism
  • Give your speech a title

A Line Drawn for Criticism

Dear club members,

Today I am going to give a speech on how to review a work of arts by your counterparts. Recently, some members have revealed that they constantly receive extremely bad reviews and opinions on their works and even personal attacks and criticism. As such, I would like to reiterate how to criticize as a critic should do and how to respond to criticism.

A critic is a person who assesses and evaluates a work of arts according to his knowledge and taste of the subject matter. It is supposed that a critic is knowledgeable so that his criticism and comments will have a reference base and follow a set of rules and values upheld by the specific field. A critic should also be well-intentioned to prevent abusively attacking a person because of his dislike or hatred of the person. A critic should also have a good taste about his professional area so that he can distinguish good work from bad work.

For example, when evaluating a poem, we should first read the poem aloud to see if it has rhythm and sounds good to the ear. Then, read the poem closely. Next, spot each line if it has used figurative language like simile, metaphor, rhyme, imagery, personification etc and see if they have been used properly. After that, look at the content of the poem and try to figure out the meaning of the poem. What is the context of the poem? When and where does it set? To whom the poem is talking? Does the poem follow any pattern? Does the poem evoke any feelings, emotions, pictures, associations and imagination? Is the language used beautiful? Is the poem cohesive and coherent? How does the poem speak to you personally? Finally, based on the above rules, you can draw a conclusion about the poem and give a review whether it is well-written or not.

When you receive bad reviews on your work of arts, you should remain open-minded as it often happens. As works of arts have both their objective and subjective level, it is unrealistic that you expect everyone to appreciate and like your work. For example, when you receive bad reviews on your poem, you can at the very least refer to the above-mentioned standard to discern whether your poem has failed in a certain way. However, if you receive personal attacks such as hostile insults or shameful remarks due to your work of arts, it is likely that the critic is ill-intentioned and has crossed the line and you should refute the disapproval.

In short, when we review a work of arts, we should criticize based on the work of arts and not the person. Moreover, it is common that we receive bad reviews on our work of arts as everyone has different perspectives and taste. We should not only be open-minded to others’ criticism but also beware of malicious attacks.