Author : Soleha Soleh from TrenglishxCommunity, Yayasan Terengganu
Writing in English may seem like a big task for learners of the language. Stringing words into sentences seems difficult, mastering the vocabulary is a hurdle, getting the grammar right is a pain. However, with enough practice and the use of strategies, writing better in English is not a dream.
Without further ado, let’s check out these six tips for you to help improve your English writing skill.
1. Outline it
To let people understand your writing easily, it’s important to organise your writing. If you are writing something more lengthy or complex you must get the points and your ideas sorted before you sit down to write.
Outlining helps you see that all the points that you need are covered. Typically you would have several points when explaining a topic.
Each paragraph is dedicated to one point only. It should have one topic sentence that states your point, explanation, and examples to illustrate your point more clearly to your readers.
2. Use writing prompts
Writing prompts are short statements, brief messages, or pictures followed by prompt questions that you can use to create your writing. If you’re experiencing writer’s block, this can help you develop new points to start writing again.
It will trigger your imagination and make you think about particular topics or ideas when you are having a blackout. These are some examples of writing prompts to help you get into thinking and writing:
“What would you do with a million ringgit?” This prompt will help you practice the conditional i.e. sentences that talk about imaginary situations and usually start with the word “if”.
“One stormy night, there was a knocking sound at the door…” This prompt can help you practice using the past tense, as well as casual written English.
Still having trouble? Worry not because there are online writing prompts as well as writing prompt apps that you can use for free.
3. Develop vocabulary
To write, you need to know words. Knowing more words opens up the door for you to express yourself better. Fret not, the following are a few examples of how you can develop your vocabulary:
a. Read regularly
When you hear the word “reading”, the first thing that comes to your mind is books, right? However, books are not the only thing you can read for vocabulary.
Choose reading materials with topics that interest you to make your learning fun. You can read articles, magazines, the subtitles of your favorite movies or documentaries, etc.
Reading diverse materials in English is very useful for building up your writing skill because it helps you to “see” how the words are spelled and used in various contexts.
b. Make notes on new words
Knowing a word is not merely being able to recognise the word, it also means being able to use it correctly. You should learn new words in context instead of in word lists.
As you encounter new words, quickly make notes of it with example sentences. Include the original sentence that you encountered the new word in.
Additionally, try to learn all the forms of the word and words that usually occur together with it. For example, the word “depend” also has these forms: to depend on, independence, dependant, etc.
c. Stick with simple words
Nobody likes to read something that they cannot understand. Like John Grisham, a famous novelist once said, “There are three types of word: (1) words we know; (2) words we should know; (3) words nobody knows. Forget those in the third category and use restraint with those in the second.”
There is a difference between having a rich vocabulary and using fancy words in your writing to show off.
It is advisable to keep your language simple and direct so that your readers can understand you. Sometimes, less is more.
4. Proofread and polish your writing
Nobody is perfect. Even your favourite books or the script of your favourite movies were edited and rewritten many times before they were published. The good news is you can learn from your mistakes and your writing can become better.
In writing, spelling is very important because writing is meant to be read. Mistakes in spelling will interrupt the reading, and sometimes can even change the meaning completely.
For example, ‘bare’ and ‘bear’ sound the same in speech but ‘bare’ means unclothed or unprotected while ‘bear’ is an animal.
You can practice spelling using flashcards and test yourself whenever you have time, and check your spelling using the dictionary. If you are typing using word processing programs you can use the in-built spell checker or online spell checker.
b. Grammar and punctuation
If vocabulary is the flowers and leaves of a language, grammar is the twigs and branches on which the flowers and leaves hang from. Appropriate tense and punctuation help make your writing clear.
Check that all verbs (“action words”) and subjects (“doers”) agree. For example, “The cat pounces” is singular subject-verb agreement while “The cats pounce” is plural subject-verb agreement.
Checking your writing two times makes a lot of difference.
c. Sentence length
Short, simple sentences are easier to write and to read. Of course, if you are feeling adventurous, you may challenge yourself to write long, complex sentences depending on your skill as you develop.
A piece of writing with varying sentence lengths flows nicely for readers as it is not monotonous.
You can detect sentence fragments by looking closely at sentences that seem too short or too long.
5. Just do it
The best way to enhance your writing skill is to write, find your weakness in writing, and fix it. The more you write, edit, and proofread, the better you get at it.
There is no doubt that writing can be difficult, but as a saying goes: when there is a will, there is a way. Just go get a pen and paper, laptop or computer, and write.
Pick any topic that catches your eyes. Then, make sure to paraphrase each text into several versions, as the first draft of writing is never perfect. Remember, practice makes perfect.
6. Join TrenglishxCommunity
You can also learn English writing online with TrenglishxCommunity (TxC). While the concept of online learning is nothing new and there are tons out there to choose from, TxC is special because it is a program by Terengganuans for Terengganuans.
TxC has social media pages that you can visit to get daily English writing tips and fun language content. These will come in handy as you practice your English writing. TxC is on Facebook, Instagram, and also YouTube.
You can follow these pages so that you will receive updates. Stay tuned because TxC also offers online classes from time to time.
“There is no one giant step that does it, it’s a lot of little steps” – Peter A. Cohen
As with all skills, the skill of writing in English can be achieved with consistent effort and practice.
Using these tips above will help you organise your effort so that you will excel in English writing. Hopefully one day you will get to where you want to be with your English writing.