On today’s episode, I’m hoping to give you some tips to improve your writing skills! Writing is one of the key language skills, and often students want to know how they can get better! We’ll look at some of the reasons writing is important to practice, and then I’ll offer some advice on how to improve!
To reinforce (v) – to make something stronger
The pockets on my jeans are reinforced with double stitching
Aspect (n) – one part of a situation, problem, subject, etc.
Which aspects of your job do you most enjoy?
Element (n) – a part of something
The movie has all the elements of a blockbuster
Flow (n) – if discussions or ideas flow, people talk and exchange information in a relaxed way
Ideas flow more easily in an atmosphere of trust
Factor (n) – a fact or situation that influences the result of something
People’s voting habits are influenced by political, social, and economic factors
Perfection (n) – the state of being complete and correct in every way
In his quest for physical perfection, he spends hours in the gym
To express (v) – to communicate what you think or feel, by speaking or writing, or in some other way
Children often express themselves in painting
To analyse – to study or examine something in detail, in order to discover more about it
Researchers analysed the purchases of 6,300 households
When we think about learning a language, we often split the skills needed to become fluent into four different categories: speaking, listening, reading, and writing! Even though writing is the final skill we learn in our native languages, it is usually one of the first we learn as language learners! Most language textbooks will include writing exercises in the first chapter. In fact, it is actually common for learners to be most confident in writing and reading! Yet, this is the opposite when it comes to our own languages. Naturally, we first learn to listen, and then to speak. Reading also always comes before writing. Importantly, writing is a skill that can always be improved, and should be improved!
Why should you practice writing? For some learners writing is essential. If you want to study abroad or in English, you need to write. If you want to work for an English speaking company, you need to write. If you want to contact people abroad by email, you need to write. However, for others, writing doesn’t always seem too important. Many people prioritise speaking, listening, and reading, because they consider these skills to be more useful in everyday life. In fact, I didn’t properly start studying how to write in Japanese until i actually left Japan and returned to the UK. However, once I started studying writing my overall language level increased! Writing helps to reinforce the grammar, vocabulary, and idioms you have learned or studied. It can also help you to become more creative with the language you use!
To write clearly it is crucial to understand and be able to use the most fundamental aspects of language! In English, this includes grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure, as well as vocabulary and spelling. If you can use all of these elements accurately, your writing will also be accurate. Similarly, improving each one of these elements will also improve the quality of your writing; for instance using more advanced grammar, more diverse vocabulary, and more interesting sentence structure will help you advance your skills. When thinking about writing, it is important to remember that there are different purposes and styles of writing. Writing can be for personal use (a diary, to do list), can be for an audience of one person, or an audience of many! In addition, your audience can be known or unknown. If you are writing a letter to a friend, you know your audience. However, if you are writing a blog on the internet, your audience is much larger and unknown! We need to change the way we write depending on the audience. Perhaps use informal slang and casual grammar when you are messaging a friend, but use advanced vocabulary and complicated sentence structure when you are writing a work report!
So far I have tried to give you some reasons why writing is important, and told you a few things that could improve your level. However, most of the people listening to this podcast probably know that improving your vocabulary (etc) and so on will improve your writing. So now, i want to give you a few practical tips that you can try to use in your daily life!
This might seem obvious, but I would argue most people don’t know how important reading is to writing! The first rule to remember when learning a new language is OBSERVE and REPEAT. I’ll say that again. OBSERVE and REPEAT! The more you read, the better your writing will become. You will learn different styles of writing, pick up the natural flow of good English, and learn how to use vocabulary, grammar, and punctuation in context. I remember having a conversation with a university professor a few years ago, who mentioned that you could easily tell the difference between a student who enjoyed reading in their free time and a student who never read. Readers are able to express their ideas much more fluently in writing. So this is tip number one – READ! What should you read? Well, this depends on a lot of different factors. What are you interested in? What level are you? What type of writing do you need to do? Generally speaking, the more advanced book or article you read, the more advanced you will become. A good place to start is with the website Engoo which produces daily news articles aimed at English learners. Goodreads recommends well written books. Magazines like the Economist are excellent for people interested in reading about current affairs, politics, and economics (I actually subscribe!).
My second tip is also very obvious! WRITE!! Just write something. If you want to improve your writing, you need to write regularly. Like with anything, the more you practice the better you will become at writing. Reading helps to build the skills, but actually starting to write something is the most important step! What should you write? Well, again, that depends on you! Like reading novels? Why not try to write your own piece of fiction? Like food and cooking? Write some recipes! Enjoy blogs? Start your own! There are so many different things you can write about! Movie reviews, current affairs articles, philosophical ideas. If this sounds like too much, why not try changing your social media posts to English! Importantly, you don’t need to be perfect. To be honest, you shouldn’t even aim for perfection! Just keep writing! Practice makes perfect!
KEEP A DIARY
My third tip is to keep a diary (or a journal)! Keeping a diary can force you into writing everyday. They also allow you to compare your writing over time, and hopefully see the improvements you are making. I know some people who keep detailed diaries of what they do everyday. For a while, I kept a Japanese diary of my thoughts and opinions on politics, philosophy, economics, and more! I also used an application called HelloTalk (a language exchange app) to write something everyday and have native speakers correct my Japanese! Actually, this podcast is sometimes like a diary of my opinions! I always recommend that any student who keeps a diary practices expressing their opinion in English. Practice analysing an issuing and considering different sides of an argument. Although recording your actions everyday is fine, recording your thoughts, ideas, and opinions is far more useful in my opinion! Many students struggle to make arguments or express themselves, even when their English is advanced. Keeping a journal of your ideas can help you improve this!
FIND A PEN PAL OR LANGUAGE EXCHANGE PARTNER
A pen pal is basically someone you exchange letters with. Websites like PenPal world and InterPals allow you to find someone suitable. At the beginning of this podcast, I talked about the different audiences for your writing. When you have a pen pal, you have a specific and regular audience for your writing! You can also practice writing in the style of traditional letters! It’s also a great opportunity for cultural exchange, to make new friends, and learn new things! Language exchange partners are normally people you practice speaking with, but why not write to them as well. There are plenty of applications online (i mentioned HelloTalk before)!
On this episode of Thinking in English I have hopefully given you some tips and inspiration on how to improve your writing in English. The most important step is to write more, and write about anything! Practice always makes perfect. Think about why you want to improve your writing, and how you are going to do so! Actually, I want you all to decide something you want to write about. Think about the topic, the audience, and the style! And try to write! It doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to be perfect! If you want someone to read your writing, reach out to me on Instagram or leave a comment on the blog and I’ll be more than happy to give you some feedback!