Learning to write English can be a frustratingly slow process. Every time you think you have written a word-perfect piece, some wise guy comes along and points out a mistake that you just don’t see anything wrong with. But before you snap your pencil and throw your books out of the window, take a deep breath and consider this…
Firstly, you are probably a lot better at writing than you think. If those reading your written English understand what you mean, even though the grammar and spelling isn't perfect, you’re half way there.
Secondly, you’d be surprised at just how many native English speakers struggle with writing, and just how many mistakes native speakers make in their written communications.
And lastly, writing skills are a combination of personal negligence, poor teaching, lack of proper feedback and few opportunities to put skills into practice. Which is why today we’re going to solve these issues by giving you 10 ways to start improving your English writing skills immediately.
1. Read as much as you can
In today’s world, an increasing number of people are reading solely from online sources. The bulk of this reading is done on blogs, which aren't always very well written. To ensure you are digesting a wide spectrum of written English, you need to employ a diverse set of reading tools. Read newspapers, magazines, brochures, reports and any other materials you can find in niches of interest. This will give you a broader understanding of grammar, sentence structure and technical jargon across a wide range of literature. When you come across words or expressions you don’t understand, underline them and look them up once you have finished your reading session.
2. Engage in chat room and forum discussions
The key to perfecting your English skills is to learn to think in English. This skill will help you write better and faster. Chat rooms and forums force you to think in English because contributors are writing in English and usually responding quickly. This dynamic environment brings English speakers of varying proficiencies together in one place, providing the perfect platform for you to improve your writing and conversational skills.
3. Mind Your Slang
It ‘s fun to learn English slang words so that you can understand the “cool” words young people use, and of course understand colloquialisms in countries like America, the UK, and Australia. But be careful not to allow slang to creep into your written work. Words such as ‘innit’ and ‘dunno’ are not considered proper English grammar, and should not find their way into formal written communications.
4. Read This Punctuation Book
No person can become a great writer of English without exemplary punctuation skills, and no writer’s bookshelf - no matter how skilled he or she might be - is complete without a copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Using examples from literature, history, neighborhood signage and other sources, the book demonstrates how commas, apostrophes and conjunctions shape the meaning of sentences. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is not your typical “learn punctuation” book, either. It’s written in a witty, almost story-like way that makes it wholly enjoyable. You can grab a copy here on Amazon.com.
5. Start a Personal Blog
I know, every man and his dog are blogging for world domination these days, but this tip isn't suggesting you embark on a mission to become the next blogosphere superstar, this endeavour is about challenging yourself to put fingers to keyboard and have the confidence to put your English writing skills on the line for all to see. A personal blog will give you a platform to use newly discovered words and expressions, and to express your thoughts and opinions on subjects you’re interested in. Don’t worry, no one’s going to judge your grammatical flaws on a personal blog; if anything, people will be impressed by your efforts.
6. Build a personalized dictionary
Easy to do and very helpful, building a personalized dictionary will improve your English writing skills overnight. Writing down irregular verbs, idiomatic expressions, technical jargon and any new words you come across will prove a far more effective learning aid than a printed or online dictionary you consult passively on an irregular basis. No matter how efficient the digital world, when it comes to learning, there is nothing quite like writing something down to get it to stick in your brain.
7. Find a personal tutor
There is no better way to advance your English writing skills that by having your work reviewed by a native English speaker. Perhaps you know a teacher or other professional whose job requires high level English skills. Ask this person if, once a week, they can help you correct grammar, spelling, tone and style in a piece of written work. Taking action on this point alone will greatly advance your English writing skills.
8. Stay humble
Even native English speakers struggle to write perfect English, and very few ever reach the standard required for professional journalism or award-winning book writing, but this doesn't mean you won’t get there. What it does mean, however, is that no matter how good you become, you must remain open to constructive criticism. The learning never stops, and an integral part of the learning process is discussing your work with those more advanced than you and taking their comments on board. Don’t miss vital opportunities to advance your writing skills by being too proud to listen.
9. Buy a personal dictionary & thesaurus
Once you begin editing and rewriting your own work you should invest in a dictionary and thesaurus. It’s true that you can use an online dictionary and thesaurus to save money, but there’s nothing like having your own hard copy at home. One reason for this is that it is best to turn off the Internet when you edit your work so that distractions such as Facebook and Twitter don’t disturb your concentration. Your personal dictionary and thesaurus will also come in handy when you go to do some work in a library, or when you are staying away from home in a place where the Internet isn't readily available.
10. Take advantage of free online resources
While it’s definitely worth investing in the aforementioned print books, and striking a balance between learning on and offline, there are a number of efficient online resources you can use to improve your English writing skills on a daily basis. Start with these three popular websites:
1. SpellCheckOnline.com – A free online spelling checker; useful for quickly checking texts when engaging in online discussions.
2. WordReference.com – A trusted online dictionary resource that converts words from English to your native language.
3. OxfordDictionaries.com – A trusted dictionary resource, but also a great place to learn to write better using puzzles and games.