5 more activities to help you write well in English

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Whether it’s an email, cover letter, report, or an essay that you wish to write well, here are a few activities that can help you communicate your ideas better and contribute to continually honing your skill:

  1. Get inspired

    Even seasoned writers have a hard time getting in the mood. If it’s hard for you to start, create the right conditions that will get you inspired. Play music that you like, or maybe go to a quiet and uncluttered spot. If you’re in the office, finding your place of zen may not be possible. The best thing you can do is choose the right timing. If your thoughts are clearest in the morning, do you writing assignments first thing. If you’re an afternoon person, then find time to write later in the day.

  2. Make an outline

    Writing a report and don’t know how to get started? Often times, the reason why it’s hard to begin is that we’re bogged down by too many ideas. We want to say so many things and we don’t know where to start. To overcome this, make an outline first. Outlining will help you:

    • organize your main ideas and guide the flow of your write-up.
    • practice organizing your thoughts in a logical manner.
    • ensure that you don’t forget to include everything you need to say in your write-up.
    • see a preview of how your work will look like minus the details. It’s like the skeleton of your piece.

    Start your outline by identifying your main ideas first. Start filling in the supporting ideas and sub-ideas for each main idea. Remember that your outline is merely a guide. You may have to add or subtract items in the course of writing or research if you’re doing an academic paper. Do you want to see an example outline? Go to: Basic outlining, John Jay School of Criminal Justice.

  3. Write several drafts

    Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Write down your thoughts with the intention of improving them later. If you have a hard time finding the right words for a sentence, write it in your native language first then go back to it. If you spend too much time on minor details, you might not have enough energy to finish your piece. Also, writing a second draft gives you the opportunity to review the entire piece, not only the parts with words missing. If you are not satisfied with your second draft and if you have time, write a third draft (Read:Tips when proofreading and editing your work). Ask for feedback from a friend or teacher to help improve your piece.

  4. Practice writing regularly

    They say it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Take every opportunity to write if you want to improve. Here are few ideas:

    • Join a writers group, book club or an EAL class. You don’t have to be a good writer to join. Being in a writers group will motivate you to write. You’ll also get good feedback. This is great for those who do not have enough will power (or discipline) to practice writing regularly. Check your nearest library or the Millennium Library for free programs.
    • Pick a topic every day and write about it. It can be anything! Write about the small things you see in your surroundings or maybe how your life is going in your new neighbourhood. Use descriptive words. If this is hard for you, watch a TV show or a movie and summarize it. Imagine that you are a critic. Describe the movie, why you liked or hated it, how it could be improved, etc.
    • Translate songs and poems in your native language to English. This will help you compare and contrast the structure of the two languages. It may even help you understand why there are certain aspects of the English language that are hard for you. For example, in my native language, the sentence structure is usually verb-subject-object, especially when spoken. So when I write in English, I often check and edit to follow subject-verb-object.
    • Get a writing buddy. It is inevitable that you will meet other newcomers in a class, an orientation session or at work. Help each other by exchanging written pieces and offering feedback.
  5. Read more

    Have you noticed that the most repeated writing tip is to read? That’s not a coincidence. Reading really is the best way to improve your vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure. It’s also a great way to train your mind to think in English.

    • Read a variety of materials. Read books, magazines, newspapers, brochures, comic books, story books, and others. Reading on the internet is good too but online articles are structured more for skimming rather than thoughtful, in-depth reading. The best resources are in the library and they’re for free!
    • Read regularly. Make it a point to read at least 30 minutes a day. Read slowly and understand the meaning of each sentence. Notice how words are organized. Observe how the writer uses expressions and idioms. The best way to do this is with a really good book. You will never go wrong with the classics but other types like biographies, fantasy, romance, and science fiction are great choices too. Read materials that are interesting to you so that it won’t feel like a chore.
    • Pause and reflect. Savour the words. If you come upon a new word, look for the meaning. Stop at each chapter (if you’re reading a novel) or any section, especially if the words or meanings strike you. Write down what you learned. Express your thoughts in writing.
    • Use audiobooks. Not everyone has time to read. But you can listen to an audiobook while doing other things like cooking, driving or cleaning the house. You’ll improve your listening skills too!

  6. Source:
    How to become a better writer in your second language, Pamela Pan, The Writing Cooperative. Retrieved September 25, 2018.

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