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Improving Your Writing Skills

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Now that you have a bunch of ideas about how to improve your conversational skills, let’s not forget that you can converse in writing as well. Moreover, being an online employee, this is probably the way you will communicate with your team most of the time.

That is why it is important to hone your writing skills in particular. Here we go!

Writing is a so-called productive language skill, so in order to improve it, you have to…guess what…

Write. Write. Write. Write a lot.

Yes, we know – but, how can I write if I yet need to learn how to write?

Well, nobody said you have to write a book!

You have enough skills to understand this lesson, and that is not little! Simply, write about the things you know. Don’t worry about the length and you don’t have to show your writing to anybody just yet. Just form a habit of writing: jotting down your dreams, for example. Coming up with short jokes.

Anything, really!

In order to improve your writing skills you need to:

  • Come up with a solid strategy
  • Find good resources
  • Find opportunities to practice your writing

Luckily for you, we can help you with every aspect of this learning process.

In order to come up with a strategy, you need to analyse the skill of writing. It has its form and its content. The elements of form are grammar, punctuation, spelling and even the sentence structure.

The content of your writing is the very meaning of your texts and how it is delivered. This includes your style and the way you organise your thoughts.

Of course, to truly improve your writing, you will have to work on each and every one of these aspects. However, some of them will need more work than the others. That is entirely up to you, your goals and your current skill level.

Hence, if you pinpoint the exact aspect of your writing skill that needs work, you can build your strategy around it. Whatever may be your strategy, it should start with READING.

Start Reading. A Lot.

In order to start producing the language, you need to get some input first. Just like you start speaking after enough listening, you will need to read a lot in order to start writing. It is great for boosting your vocabulary, sentence structure and general composition of your writing. So, what do you need to do?

Read. Read. Read. Read a lot.

What should you read? Why don’t we take the advice of the Nobel Prize winner, William Faulkner:

Generally, everything that you find amusing. You can read stories, books, website articles, blogs and every other form of content. As long as you can understand it for the most part – it’s good.

Why?

There are several reasons why reading makes you better at writing:

  • Your vocabulary improves
  • You grow your intuitive grammar knowledge and make fewer mistakes
  • You learn about good sentence structure
  • You adopt different writing styles

These are just some of the reasons that are the most important for you at this point. Here is a great and entertaining article that explains the importance of reading for improving your writing: Want to write better? Start reading, a lot [Infographic].

Here are some suggestions about the different reading material that you can explore and enjoy. Again – mind your language level and choose the material that you can understand for some part.

Reading Material Meant for ESL Students

Here are some websites that have good reading material and sometimes even some tests about those texts that can help you check how well you understood the text in question.

They offer texts according to your language level. We already talked about different language levels, so if you haven’t already, do the placement test to learn where you are at this moment. Here is the CEFR placement test you can do.

However, don’t let the test results discourage you from trying to read materials that are a bit more advanced than your current level. You cannot learn without a bit of challenge, can you?

ESOL Courses offers mainly short texts of different levels. The texts are no more than 300 words long, which is not much, but they come with neat comprehension tests that you can take and test your understanding. They also offer reading lessons and activities.

My English Pages has a big variety of different written material. Some of them are short stories, others are famous speeches and some of them are simple quotes. All this material is classified into topics. You can choose from politics, sports, literature and many others.

Linguapress has a collection of texts that are mostly about the culture and current topics from the USA and the UK. There are reading comprehension questions after each of them. Why don’t you try and write down the answers instead just looking for them in the texts? It’s good practice for you!

Fullspate has some truly intriguing and a bit demanding texts. Don’t get intimidated by their length as they are captivating and enjoyable. These texts are mainly collected for those on the Upper-Intermediate and Advanced levels.

Rong Chang is a collection of mini-novels for English Language learners. Just choose one from the list and start!

Newsela has news classified into different language levels, so you can filter them and find the news that match your current level. Besides the news, they also feature different reading skills, topic categories and many more. This is quite an enjoyable website.

Newsela level of reading

The 100 American People You Should Know is a great list of texts for those that enjoy reading biographies and learning about famous and notable people. Moreover, this selection of biographies help you understand American values and culture better.

News Websites

Do you read the news? How about making it a habit to read the news in English. That could be fun, right? It would definitely improve your reading and, consequently, your writing.

Dogo News is directed mainly at the young adults. This means that the language used in their news and current events articles is not as advanced as the one you would hope to find at a news site. Here is an example:

Smithsonian Tween Tribune is another website that features news adapted for the younger learners. It means that the language has been adapted, as well. In other words – simplified.

Simple English News will take the current events and the news and rewrite them in simple words for you. In that way, even if you are not on the high level of language, you can still enjoy them and read them.

Voice of America also has a section of their website on which you need to find the current news and events from both America and the world.

Of course, the list would not be complete without the legendary BBC NewsCNN NewsThe New York Times and The New Yorker. These are among the most famous news that started as newspapers, migrated to the TV and today, they are very influential even on the Internet.

Blogs and Engaging Websites

Not all the websites you read have to be about news and current events. You can learn a lot from the everyday, popular websites that are usually built around one or more topics and interests. Your reading will be more enjoyable if you can read about the topics that truly interest you.

You can use the apps like FeedlyThe Skimm or Pocket to help you stay on track or discover new blogs and websites you may find interesting, based on their categories.

Entrepreneur is an online magazine on a variety of topics. It features news and articles from the world of business, science and even lifestyle. Here, you can find an interview with Elon Musk, but also tips on how to be a better parent.

screenshot of Entrepreneur blog post

The Guardian is considered to be one of the British leading newspapers and has a long tradition. Today, it also expands to the virtual space and offers a lot of articles and stories on different subjects online.

Huffington Post has both the worldwide and the localised versions. It is an online news magazine and it publishes opinion based articles.

BuzzFeed writers and editors are the masters of all those articles that start with “17 Celebrities That Have Learning Difficulties”, “23 Disneyland Hacks You Never Knew Existed” and other clickbait titles. However, they make fun, light and interesting read, so go for it. However, some articles contain some adult language, so keep that in mind if you want to avoid such expressions.

screenshot of BuzzFeed blog posts

LifeHacker has been created to offer interesting tips and tricks about every aspect of your life. Today, this even means news, current events and entertainment. Everything is written in a simple language, it will easy for you to enjoy it.

Those are just some of the widely known websites that many people read. Another reading options are blogs. These are usually created around a topic, so you can easily find a blog that might interest you, simply by googling “fishing blogs” or “parenting blogs”.

We found a couple of articles that offer lists of good blogs for you. We chose the topics, but you can easily find others, as well.

Books for Young Adults and Short Stories

We already said that fiction written for young adults is just perfect for practising and improving your English. Why? For several reasons:

  • The language is simple and clear enough, so there are no complex sentences and grammar structures to confuse you.
  • After reading a book, you will have a sense of accomplishment Wow! I’ve just read an entire book in English! – and this improves your self-confidence. Remember how important your confidence is for English learning?
  • If we are honest, fantasy novels and your adult fiction are fun!

If an entire novel looks like too big of a challenge for you, why don’t you start with the collection of short stories? They require less time to complete and they are just as well-written as the novels are.

Where to start?

You can always try reading the writers who are praised for their simple, yet illustrative sentences and clear language. Those are Neil GaimanJ. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, just to name a few.

It is difficult to recommend authors and books to somebody you don’t know. However, there is a website that can recommend you a book based on the one you state to be your favourite: What Should I Read Next. You should find the books you like yourself, since it is important that you enjoy reading them.

Consider creating a profile on the social network designed for readers. It is called Goodreads and once it learns your interests, it will suggest titles for you.

When it comes to young adult fiction, Goodreads has some very interesting lists and recommendations that you can explore.

Here are some other lists to give you a push in the right direction.

Your reading should be enjoyable, entertaining, educative and most of all – frequent!

Readlang translation tool

Writing Skills Elements

Now that you have all the input you need and your brain is brimming with new words, constructions and content, it is time to pour that out and start writing.

Let’s go back a step and analyse the skill of writing. What makes a good piece of writing, even if it is in a text message?

The answers you get to this question usually include: good grammar, clear idea, easy to figure out what the text is about, enjoyable to read, no obvious mistakes…

All of these things can be classified into two groups: form and content. The form consists of your grammar and sentence structure while your content is about your style and meaning.

However, when you tried to answer the question above, you must have thought something like: Wait a minute…what kind of text? A novel? A textbook? A Facebook post?

That leads us to our following point. Your style and even your grammar need to match the format you are writing in.

But let’s take it one step at the time.

We already said this means perfecting your grammar and sentence structurepunctuation and spelling.

Boost Your Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation

Students “love” practising grammar. That’s a well-known fact, but they don’t actually hate the grammar itself that much, but the way it is usually practiced. It used to be so boring at school!

Luckily for you, the gamification of grammar is already here in the forms of different apps, websites and similar tools. Again, back to the Tools and resources that really help and find the apps that you like, which will help you boost your grammar.

Check again DuoLingo and Grammar Express.

Remember all those Facebook groups and Youtube videos? Explore them and try to use them to improve your grammar.

Haven’t we said that the grammar is not the most important thing in the world? Sure! It is not. You will be well-understood without it, as well. But, don’t you want to sound educated and precise? Of course, you do!

In time, simple communication with your teammates and your employer will not be enough for you. You will want to understand them better and to talk to them, share parts of your life with them and get to know them.

With limited grammar, your communication will be limited, as well.

Therefore, grammar is not a burning issue with your English, but that doesn’t mean it is worthless and that it should be ignored.

Also, you have one thing working for you – tools that review your work before you post your messages and texts. Try the most popular proofreading tools, GrammarlyGinger or WhiteSmoke. Here are the differences between these tools:

These tools will also help you with your spelling and punctuation, but if you want to learn more about them on your own, visit these links for more information:

Use the Proper Sentence Structure

English is quite strict when it comes to sentence patterns. The English language has the SVO sentence pattern. If you try to start the sentence without a subject or with a verb, you may be understood, but it will be obvious that your English is not that polished up. You don’t want to sound like Yoda from the Star Wars, do you?

This happens because you try to use the rules from your own language and implement them in English. Take the time to explore what it means, which sentence structures exist in English and try to incorporate them into your own language.

Moreover, English has 4 types of sentences and if you want to write in advanced English, you need to learn how to differentiate them and use them all.

Improve Your Writing Style

Whatever you may want to write, it means that you have a thought or an idea that you want to communicate to somebody else. If you have a good style, your message will be clear and easily grasped by your reader.

However, you are not about to start writing novels just yet. Your writing style needs to match your purpose. There will be a lot of content and videos online that give you advice on how to improve your writing.

However, be careful, because a lot of it is aimed at those who want to learn to write essays, prosper in academic writing or pass an exam.

This doesn’t mean that you should not take valuable advice about grammarsentence structure and even style from them, but there are some essay-specific ideas that you do not have to implement in your writing.

These can come in useful in the future, when your employer asks you to write short copies, reports, emails and similar texts. This teacher underlined some of the quite relatable issues when it comes to writing in English.

For starters, you just need to learn how to be clear and concise and avoid the most common mistakes in your writing.

You can also find some more tips in the Wordvice article How to Improve Your Writing: Avoid These Common Grammar Mistakes.

You can learn from all those mistakes and rules. However, if you need to write something a bit longer than just a couple of sentences to greet your team members you can use the Hemingway app to improve your style and make it simpler and easier to read.

This app is named, of course, after the amazing writer Ernest Hemingway who was praised for his simple and effective language. Hemingway is not the only one who thought that the simple language is the best for expressing ideas. George Orwell gives some good advice to anybody who is trying to write anything.

So, you have to be clear and concise and use simple language, but how do you practice that? Read again the first tip from the beginning of this lesson: Write. Write. Write a lot.

Start Writing. A Lot.

Write what? Just random words on a piece of paper? Not really. Give it some sort of form and goal. The point being – you should mimic the writing that you’ll be doing after you land an online job.

Can you imagine what you will be writing? Let’s give you an idea. Here is a quick overview of Basecamp, which is a common collaboration tool. Take a look at this quick and short video about its features and the way people communicate on it:

Have you been able to get the general idea about how people communicate online using Basecamp? Mostly, it comes down to three things:

  • Day-to-day communication usually resembles some sort of chat room where you leave the messages for others.
  • Tasks and updates on your work that in most cases mean several sentences about your progress on a certain task.
  • Email correspondence with team members, your employer or even clients, depending on your role inside a company.

Of course, Basecamp is far from being the only online platform, but the general principles are mostly the same for all of them.

All these can be practiced online and for free. You just need to find similar platforms and situations and get involved! Here are some suggestions.

1: Engage in Online Conversations

It has never been this easy to practice online communication! There are online forums, Facebook comments, message boards, Twitter and so many others. Moreover, there are so many opportunities that you may get overwhelmed by the choice.

Join the Facebook groups and follow the Twitter accounts we suggested and engage in the discussions. Choose language learning groups like: Woodward English or My English Teacher that often spark discussions online.

The other option is to find other engaging groups that don’t have ESL as their main aim and engage in the discussions there. We suggested groups like Humans of New York and Story Corps, but you can simply visit Facebook groups of your favourite news stations and engage in discussions about the current events.

However, follow the unwritten rules of online communication on the social media for a more enjoyable experience:

Posting on Facebook and discussing in the comments area is a great practice for the exchange of opinions you will have to join on your online working platform.

Another, quite effective way of practising such exchange is joining online forums. Again, you can join those that are designed for the purpose of practising the English language:

Your other option is to participate in those forums that are simply about a topic that interests you. One of the most varied online discussions happens on Reddit.

2: Write Emails

Email correspondence makes up for a better part of communication in the business world. Especially, if you work online and you are employed in an online company.

Therefore, you can improve your email practice by corresponding with your friends or finding other people to write to. Explore these websites to find an email pen pal: 27 Unbeatable Pen Pals Sites: Find the Penpal Arrangement That Works For You.

Another thing you can do is study the email templates and learn from them. When it comes to do’s and don’ts of email writing, this infographic is quite useful:

Moreover, here are some websites that can teach you all about proper email writing for business purposes:

3: Write a Blog or Journal

Online communication on your online position will not include only communication with the team members. You will have to write updates on your progress and even some short texts, from time to time.

Before that happens, you need to get comfortable with writing. Do it by starting your own, personal blog or online journal.

Don’t fall into the trap of being too self-conscious. If you are shy about it, you don’t have to show your blog to anybody. The important thing is to keep writing and practising. Here are some tools to help you write better:

More Websites With Excellent Writing Tips

You can never get too much help in with your writing skills, so here is a list of different websites that offer sterling tips and tricks that help you improve.

In Summary

There are two things you need to do in order to improve your writing: read and write. The more you read, the more language you acquire and you can write better. The more you write, well, the more practice you get and your written communication improves.

It sounds way too easy to be true, doesn’t it? Just read and write. Surely, there has to be a bit more to it. There are three points that you need to take into account:

  • Come up with a solid strategy
  • Find good resources
  • Find opportunities to practice your writing

A solid strategy means improving your grammar, punctuation, spelling, sentence structure and style. However, you should be doing this in a systematic manner. Once you analyse your writing skills according to these elements, you will be able to pinpoint what needs to be worked on and address the issue.

Either way, reading is your starting point. Why?

  • Your vocabulary improves
  • You grow your intuitive grammar knowledge and make fewer mistakes
  • You learn about good sentence structure
  • You adopt different writing styles

In this lesson, you can find links to different reading materials adapted for different English levels. They also include different formats, so you can enjoy novels, as well as simple quotes.

Reading, of course, is not the only thing you should be doing in order to improve your writing. You need to write, as well, and to learn about how to improve your texts.

Again, we offered a lot of links to tools and resources that can show you what good writing means and even review your work, so you can learn from your mistakes.

The majority of your time working for a company, you will converse with your co-workers in short form, write reports, updates, emails and similar forms. Therefore, that is precisely what you should be writing now to boost your confidence and skills.

Put yourself in a similar situation and find the ways to communicate in the same format: Facebook comments and discussions, forums and emails with friends and penpals. In this lesson, you will find enough links to good Facebook groups, forums and penpal matching websites.

We also showed you how to create your own blog and practice your writing there. It will help you in writing the reports and teach you how to represent events and instructions in a clear timeline.

You can also find links to good email writing tips and tricks, especially for the business correspondence. In the end, of course, we suggested more links to great articles that can expand your knowledge on this topic.

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