Guide on Improving English Writing Skills

5 January 2020
Samira Tasneem

Feeling puzzled with all the tips, easy steps, and advice on the internet? Maybe you have already gone through several videos, articles and also have read a few books on improving English writing skills.

But still, you can't make up your mind.

You have no clue about where to start, what to follow.

You are not alone. Trust me, a lot of learners facing the same problem.

Let’s see it from a different angle.

Have you ever realized from the very beginning of your journey to learning English that you were mostly involved in writing?

Did not get it?

Okay, let me make it clear.

Tell me, how many emails you have typed in your life? Or how many texts you have sent to your friends? Like that, you must have written an uncountable number of paragraphs, reports, assignments, essays, and letters.

What I am trying to say is that you have been practicing ’writing’’ in English mostly.

As you are reading this article, it means after all these practices, you are still not satisfied with the level of your English writing.

Here in this article, I am going to show you how you can improve your English writing skills.

I will try to share some plans with you.

So, are you ready?

It is a pretty long article, though. But I promise you will not regret it after completing reading the article.

 

And this article will be helpful to:

  • Students taking IELTS
  • Students taking any English writing exams
  • People who are about to write essays and SOP
  • People who write reports or make presentations in their corporate life

 

Let’s get into the business.

Table of Contents:

Chapter-1:  Knowing the purpose

Chapter-2:  Simplicity Is the Best

Chapter-3:  A collection of Set Phrases and Keywords

Chapter-4:  Just Stop Doing These!

Chapter-5:  Stiffen Your Writing

Chapter-6:  Read the Right Materials

Chapter-7:  Give Your Writing a Structure

Chapter-8:  Adopt the Conversational Style of Writing

Chapter-9:  The Skill of Showing Not Telling

Chapter-10:  Practice! Practice! Practice

Chapter-11:  Importance of Improving Writing Skills

Chapter 1: Knowing the Purpose

Writing: As we know it

As you already know it, today, I am going to discuss English Writing skills.

Like the other three foundations of any language (Reading, Listening, Speaking), writing is equally important.

And by writing, I am referring to formal writing. Like how you will be writing in English writing exams, emails, reports, essays, in CVs, and in every other field where you will be needing formal writing.

writing skills

You do not necessarily need to write in this formal way when you are texting your friends or in other informal matters.

As I have already informed that you have been practicing these writing skills for quite a time now. So you know the basics.

All you need is just a little push, a proper guideline for upgrading the skill of writing. And I am going to tell you about the kinds of stuff and give you the push you need.

Chapter 2: Simplicity Is the Best

Keep It Simple!

Do you love reading complex and inaccurate writing?

If the answer is "no," then why will you write in that way yourself?

In your English writing, you do not want to show off your English rather show accurate English, not at all the English you do not know or have not learned yet. Simple done accurately is better than complicated done inaccurately.

It is better to keep things simple and do it well rather than make it complex and do it badly.

Do Not Over Complicate the Writings

Picture this.

You are reading English writing. The piece if writing is full of words you do not know. The structures of sentences are complicated and hard to understand. It is full of unknown phrases and wrongly put words.

Would you love to read that piece of writing?

Definitely no!

Then when you are writing, you should keep that in mind.

You should use sight words more often as people are very familiar with them.

Chapter 3: Collection of Set Phrases and Keywords

You might be wondering why you will need these.

In order to avoid making mistakes in your writing, it is a fantastic idea to have a collection of set phrases and keywords that you can use in your writings. So here my suggestion for you is:

Prepare Key Phrases

Well, you have to be careful with this.

You do not need to rehearse what you are going to write.

But you better have a nice selection of things that you can possibly use if the time arises.

Are you taking the IELTS exam? Or taking any academic exam?

If so, then you will want to have linking words and key phrases prepared.

Now here is a list of key phrases with exampled I have prepared for you. This list does not cover everything. But I can assure you if you study everything on the list, then you will be adequately prepared for the English writing exam you are about to take.

writing skills

You need to make sure that you have a variety of different ways too;

Compare

  • In the same way
  • At the same time

Contrast

  • On the contrary
  • However

Give Examples

  • For instance
  • To illustrate

Give Your Opinion

  • From my perspective
  • From my point of view

Generalized

  • Overall
  • All things considered

Express Certainty

  • Undoubtedly
  • Of course

Express Partial Agreement

  • In a way
  • To some extent

Show Cause

  • Owing to
  • Due to

Show Effect

  • For this reason
  • Consequently

Mark Time

  • To begin with
  • Following this

Add Information

  • Furthermore
  • Moreover

Express Condition

  • Unless
  • Provided that

Conclude

  • In summary
  • In short

This is a brief list. I am trying to show you what to know and how to do it. This way, you can fully prepare yourself.

 

Chapter 4: Just Stop Doing These!!!

You should avoid a few things while writing for academics or any formal Writings. These things just spoil the standard of writing.

Do Not Use Contractions in Formal Writing

Do you have any doubt?

You might be thinking that contractions make the words sound better. Yeah, definitely, sometimes it sounds better, but it never looks good on writing. I am giving you a few examples of contractions.

Do not > don’t

Is not > isn’t

Can not > can’t

Could not > couldn’t

Will not > won’t

Would not > wouldn’t

I am > I’m

Rather than using, don't; you will use do not. Do not use any contractions.

But I know you guys are concerned about word count. And using contractions reduces you a word count. So you can put more information. So in the next chapter, I will show you how to reduce word count without using contractions.

writing skills

 

On the other hand, if you writing a blog or any other informal writing, you can use contractions.

They feel more communicative. 

Chapter 5: Stiffen Your Writing Skills

Reduce the Dead Words

You have sweated blood to write your essays or other writings within the recommended numbers of words. As I told you not to use contractions, now you must be thinking of how you can put more information within the word limit.

Here the thing is, stop using all those unnecessary filler words.

Now you may ask, what are those words you should stop using?

The words like really, very, a lot, there are, there is, etc. are some of the words you should stop using.

These are pointless and empty calorie words in the English language. Let me give you some examples to make sure that you understand this clearly.

Suppose you wrote, "Problems of geometry really hard."

Now it is better you eliminate that really hard word and replace it with a strong word with similar meaning.

For instance, you can write, "Problems of geometry is difficult."

Does it change the meaning? No.

Then you should use it.

Let us look at another sentence.

“A lot of students are failing in the English exam.”

Here in this sentence, replace the words "a lot of" with the word many. Then it looks like "Many students are failing in English exam."

The meaning is still the same. And it looks better and smarter.

Now you can ask me what is wrong if you use "there are," "there is," and words like these.

These words spoil the beauty of sentences and make the sentence petty. Try to avoid using these words. To illustrate here is a sentence;

There are a lot of problems in our society.

Replacing “there are” and “a lot of” you can rearrange the sentence like this;

Our society is facing many problems.

Thus you can reduce the filler words in your writing.

Simmer Down Prepositional Phrases

Let me tell you a story. It was when I was a novice writer.

My writing was not up to the mark. I was being criticized for my low level of writing skills.

Then on a fine day, a well-wisher of mine told me that what I was doing wrong.

Do you know what it was?

It was prepositional phrases that made my writings unnecessarily wordy and complex.

It is not like that prepositions are difficult to understand. But it is the concept of your writing that requires more explanation.

So smartly handle prepositions, and try to simplify them whenever it is possible. It will give you a piece of writing a clarity boost.

Get Rid of Weak Verbs And Adverbs

What are the weak verbs, you might be questioning? And how avoiding it can help you improve your writing skills?

Let’s dive in.

Weak verbs and adverbs are those who do not have the commanding influences over the reader's minds. Those just weaken the structure. Let me make it clear to you with some examples.

“His coach gave him the assistance to win the tournament.”

Here in this sentence, the verb is "gave." It is a weak verb as it is in supporting role for the noun "assistance."

Now you can replace this weak verb “gave” with a strong verb. For instance;

“His coach assisted him to win the tournament.”

Here the strong verb "assisted" replaces the weak verb "gave."

Chapter 6: Read the Right Materials

Yeah, you have heard that right.

Many of you love to read books or other documents during your spare time. And often you find yourself reading an English book. This is a fantastic way to improve your spelling and enrich your vocabulary.

 Now my question is, are you reading the right kind of materials?

All these books you are reading are written mostly in an informal way, in a way that makes it catchier. But will it help you big time?

No.

In your exams, you will be asked to write down an article, essay, or a report or maybe all these three. So you better go to the library or find materials related to these three. Get used to the style of this type of writing.

writing skills

It would bolster your writings skills very much!

Chapter 7: Give Your Writing a Structure

You can resemble your thoughts rattling while you are writing informally. But when you are writing for an exam or writing a report, you need to assemble those shaky thoughts in a structured way. The reader will feel more comfortable then.

Here I am providing you some tips to do so.

Make the Concepts Clear

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, then you do not understand it at all.” This is a famous quote quoted by famous scientist Albert Einstein.

Your writing definitely contains a goal, a purpose, or a concept. Before you start writing, be sure about what that concept is. Once you find out the concept, you stick to it.

Do not give any vague idea to the readers about your writing. Make the concept clear. Write around the concept.

Sort out All the Stuff

When you are writing any texts or other informal kinds of stuff, you do not need to think much.

But, when your piece of writing is not that simple, then it is not that easy. When the writing is complex and has some layers and different angles in it, you have a bit more work to be done.

With a view to doing it comprehensively, you need to find the outlines and sort them together. This will save you some time and will give you a good piece of work.

Previse the Queries

You will have to deduce what readers can be questioning after reading your work.

Put yourself in the place of the reader and try to anticipate the questions that may arise in the readers' minds. So try to provide enough information so the readers can understand the context.

Stop Explaining Extravagantly

Just put that much, which is needed. Do not put excess information.

Your aim is to give a clear idea about your writing, not giving the tiny little details.

You should read your writing. You ask yourself if the information is necessary. If not, then dump it.

Chapter 8: Adopt the Conversational Way of Writing for Better Writing Skills

This is basically applicable for article writing, fiction writing, or maybe even writing a blog.

Choose Simpler Words

Bestselling author John Grisham (he is the author of The Partner, The Last Juror, A time to kill and 32 other books) said, “There are three types of words: (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.”

 You do not want to show off your English. Rather make it simple and convenient. So the reader can get it easily.

Attract the Readers

Do you want to know a secret?

Want to know a trick to attract the reader like a magnet?

It's a pretty simple trick. It has a name. It is called a Grease-slide copy.

Now, what is a grease-slide copy?

Grease slide copy is a magnetic writing technique that keeps the reader glued to the writing.

You can use it in several parts of your writing. Like in the opening, you can start with a question. Then set the scene, get into the readers' minds, call for their attention.

writing skills

This will basically help you improve your non-academic writing skills.

Do not use this in formal writings!

Keep Your Sentences Simple

Do not use any complex sentences. Make sentences in a simple way. If you see the sentences are getting more complex, then break it down. Keep the flow of the writing. So the reader will be comfortable reading your work.

Chapter 9: The Skill of Showing Not Telling

Yeah.

You have heard that right.

Make your writing a skill of showing the story, not just telling it. And it will transform your writing if you keep practicing afterward.

Show not tell, what this guy is talking about you might be thinking. I am talking about that you create such a piece of writing; when someone reads it, he will be able to visualize every detail on his own.

Did not get it? Let’s dig a little deeper.

When you are writing, avoid simple statements which do not add any description or flavor.

For example: "The man was stressed."

Boring?

Instead, I want you to paint a picture. I want you to describe that the man is stressed without telling the man he is.

So how is that possible? You will try to avoid this word and describe it instead.

The man who is stressed what is he doing? He is fidgeting. He can’t stay stable out of stress. He is biting his nails. Just like this, pick up a couple of details that show how the person was.

So instead of the sentence, "The man was stressed," you can write it. "The man was fidgeting and biting his nails.

What makes this so special? Moreover, it is taking some extra words. Why will you do this?

You will do this because readers will love it. They will just be glued to the page. This will put some weights on your writing and will make it glorious.

Chapter 10: Practice! Practice! Practice!

Didn’t you ever hear “practice makes a man perfect”?

It’s a long heard proverb, and it’s true. So keep practicing. Day by day, you will be aware of your mistakes and get rid of it.

writing skills

The more you write, the more your writing gets better. It corrects your spelling, and you will know new vocabulary every day. You will know a new style of writing or who knows someday you may invent one.

Chapter 11: Importance of Improving English Writing Skills

You must know that English has become the common language all over the world among all nations.

And writing is one of the best ways of communication. In order to keep communicating in real life or in social media, the skill of English writing is a must.

From the very beginning of your school days, you have to attend English writing exams. During the whole academic life, you have to write thousands of essays, reports, documents, emails in English.

Again if you want to go for higher studies abroad, you have to take exams like IELTS, TOEFL, GMAT, GRE, etcetera.

In that process, you need to write essays, SOPs, mails again. And all of these writing must have to be in English.

Again if you are doing a job, you need to make reports and presentations.

So whatever you do, you will need a good command over English writing. It can be one of the most important weapons in your arsenal that you will need in this race of prosperity.

Final Thoughts on Improving Writing Skills

In the end, I am telling you that the ways of improving your English writing skills are complex, more or less, specifically the formal writings.

Do not get conceived by the so-called "easy techniques" or "shortcuts" you see on the internet because those do not exist. Do not let those fool you.

I would like to request you to have patience.

Nothing happens overnight. Keep practicing. Sooner or later, you will be able to get rid of your mistakes and will master the skill of English writing skills.

Rather than being too serious about things, you could release some stress participating our unique Spelling Bee Online SBO.

Be confident. Because your personality will be floating on the words, you write.

If you have something on your mind that you think is missing, or you think it’s worth adding, please leave a comment below.

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