Learning to write in another language isn’t the same as learning to speak – it can be much more daunting. Whatever you write stays there on the page (or screen) for everyone to see. Mistakes are more obvious but you have the opportunity to look over your work and keep correcting it until you’re sure (or at least hope) it’s perfect.
Here are ten tips to give your writing in English a boost.
1.Write how you speak
Use short sentences
That doesn’t mean filling your writing with “umms” and “errs” but rather breaking your sentences down and making them shorter. English is less formal than Italian and doesn’t try to force all the information into one long sentence laden with two dozen dependent and independent clauses to cover all eventualities. Try to keep your sentences to an average of 20 words and a maximum of 35.
2.Keep a journal
Write it all, or, anything at all, down
Remember when you kept that diary when you were young? Well, it turns out it’s not only useful for keeping secrets or to remember what you did, but it’s a useful tool to practice your written communication skills, only we call it “journaling” as adults J
“Swipe” and save what you like
Compile a file and personal dictionary. Whenever you’re reading, make note of expressions you like or want to use in your writing. Create a folder on your desktop where you put screenshots and save articles or sentences you like – writers call this a ‘swipe’ file.
4.Read and rewrite
Copy and paste the old-fashioned way
Read a passage from a book and rewrite it from memory. Then, when you’re ready, check it against the original. This is an old trick even professionals use to improve their writing.
5.Read, read and read some more
Read the kind of things you want to write
The more you read in English, the more you increase your passive knowledge of the language. Reading literature will naturally improve your written English, but reading posts and websites written the way you want to write will help you hone your own writing style and vocabulary, unless of course, you want to be Shakespeare.
Use forums to practice
Much as throwing yourself into conversations helps improve your speaking, chatting online and contributing to forums help your writing. Online conversations put you in a position where you have to write quickly and effectively to communicate. Thinking on your feet and typing as you think will help to sharpen your English writing skills.
Check if your sentence exists in English? (And we don’t mean translate.)
When you’re not sure if an expression is quite right, search for it with Google. The search engine’s fuzzy filter will find the correct expression for you if you paste in something that’s almost right.
Take a break and double check your writing later
Once you’ve finished, put your writing away for a day or so. As a student of English your passive skills (reading and listening) are better than your active skills (writing and speaking). Looking over your work with a fresh and critical eye will allow you to see errors and make improvements you may not have noticed before.
More tips for writing like a native:
Back to school
You need to know your English grammar upside down, back to front and inside out. You need to know it so well that you know exactly when to ignore it. While your ability to successfully use the present perfect continuous may impress your teacher, it won’t help you to communicate more effectively and most readers won’t even notice it. By keeping it simply, you’ll sound more natural.
Write your own blog and update it regularly, that way you can practice writing about things that you find interesting.
Take a writing correspondence course so a native speaker can review your writing and give you feedback on how and where to improve.
Use professional services
When you need to really produce error-free professional English text get your writing proofread and edited by an established language agency with a team of specialized linguists, translators, and editors. Alternatively, for marketing texts brief a copywriter who can draw up and adapt texts to your brand message.
Follow our learning series for more on English writing tips.
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