5 more activities to help you write well in English

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Here are a few activities that can help you communicate your ideas better and contribute to honing your writing skill:

  1. Get inspired

    Even seasoned writers get writer’s block. If it’s hard for you to start, create the right conditions that will get you in the mood to write. Get comfortable in your favourite nook, play some music, or stay in a quiet spot if don’t like distractions. This can be hard to do when you’re in the office. In this case, the best thing you can do is to choose the right timing. If your thoughts are clearest in the morning, do you writing assignments first thing. If you’re an afternoon person, find time to write later in the day.

  2. Make an outline

    Don’t know how to get started? More often than not, it’s hard to begin because you’re overwhelmed. You have so many ideas and you want to say so many things! The solution is to start with an outline. It 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. Start filling in the supporting ideas for each main point. Remember that your outline is merely a guide. You can add or subtract items in the course of your research or as you develop your themes. If you don’t know how to make an outline, see a sample here: Basic outlining.

  3. Write several drafts

    Don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. If you spend too much time on minor details, you might not have enough energy to finish your piece. Write down your thoughts with the intention of improving them later. For example, if you can’t remember certain English words for a sentence, write it in your native language first. Write a second draft to improve your first draft. Continue improving your work (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 professional 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 the will power nor discipline to practice writing regularly. Check your nearest library or the Millennium Library for free programs. You could also join our Reading Club and Writing Workshops.
    • Pick a topic every day and write about it. It can be about anything! Write about the small things you see around you or maybe how your life is going in your new neighbourhood. Use simple, descriptive words. You can also watch a TV show or a movie then pretend that you are a critic. Describe the story, write what you liked or hated about it and how it could be improved. End by recommending whether people should watch it or avoid it.
    • Translate favourite songs and poems in your native language to English. This activity will help you compare and contrast the structure of the two languages. It will also improve your vocabulary. Use a dictionary or Google translate to help you out.
    • Get a writing buddy. Ask another newcomer that you might meet in class, an orientation session or at work to be your writing partner. Help each other by exchanging written work and offering feedback.
  5. Read more

    Have you noticed that the most repeated writing tip is to read? Reading 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 other materials. Notice the different styles of writing. Reading online is good too but these materials are designed more for skimming rather than in-depth reading. The best resources are in the library and they’re for free!
    • Read regularly. Read at least 30 minutes each 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. However, choose materials that are interesting to you so that reading won’t feel like a chore.
    • Pause and reflect. Savour the words. If you see a new word, look for the meaning. Stop at each chapter (if you’re reading a novel), especially if the words strike you. Write down what you learned. Express your thoughts in writing.
    • Use audio books. Not everyone has time to read. If this is you, try listening to an audio book. You can do this while doing other things like cooking, driving or cleaning the house. You’ll improve your listening skills too!
    Article updated May, 2020.

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

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