Whether it’s buying a bus ticket, going to the doctor, finding an apartment, or just opening your mouth for an ordinary conversation, most English students can’t wait. to express yourself – after all, don’t you learn English in order to communicate?
But don’t forget that writing is another hugely important aspect of communication – even in the age of Snapchat and Instagram. To help you do that, we’ve put together a list of seven super practical tips for improving your written English.
1. Read more and more
Do you have a feeling of déjà vu? You are not the only one. If “reading more” is often recommended for better mastering writing, it’s precisely because it works! Reading exposes you to new vocabulary, interesting word choices and beautiful phrases that you can then reuse in your own writing. Don’t worry about what to read – the goal is to read abundantly and frequently. Novels, non-fiction, blogs, newspaper articles, magazines – as long as it’s written (and well-written), read it!
2. Banish these words from your vocabulary
To take your style to the next level, banish these inappropriate words from your writing: very, really, quite, good, got, stuff and things. You might be wondering how removing those few simple words will help you dramatically improve your writing skills. Well, in reality, these are unnecessary words. They do not allow powerful communication and without them your text will retain the same meaning – while being much more readable!
Additional tip: Replace the combination “very / really + adjective” with an “extreme adjective”. Very hungry thus becomes ravenous. To run really fast thus becomes to sprint. Really dirty thus becomes filthy. There are hundreds of such adjectives to use in written composition.
3. Use a thesaurus
After you have removed unnecessary words from your writing, now is the time to choose some great substitutes for them. This is where your new best friend comes in – the thesaurus. Use it to substitute terms that you use too often with more interesting, appropriate, or more elaborate alternatives (e.g. cloth> fabric; money> cash; change> alter; happy> glad; decorate> embellish; improve> enhance .)
Avoiding overly common terminology or simplistic vocabulary will make your text feel more personal and sophisticated. However, be careful not to cross the line! Your written composition should still read naturally and be understood by your target audience (see point 5).
4. Use and notice collocations
Collocations are terms we tend to associate, even though other word combinations are just as grammatically correct. Think of the heavy rain collocation in English. Grammatically, it is quite possible to use strong rain, but it sounds strange to familiar ears. Collocations are numerous and include, among others, weak tea (not feeble tea), excruciating pain (not not excruciating joy), tall trees (not not high trees), buy time (not purchase time) and fast cars (not not quick cars). Familiarizing yourself with typical collocations will make your written composition more natural.
To increase your knowledge of collocations, start with a basic verb such as make, do, get, break, tell – and look for associated collocations. You can also start with a “type” of collocation and memorize a few examples. Some of these types include the following combinations:
• Adverb + adjective (completely satisfied, widely available, bitterly disappointed)
• Adjective + noun (strong coffee, heavy traffic, severe weather)
• Verb + noun (commit suicide, do your homework, make amends)
• Name + name (a surge of anger, liquor license, panic attack)
5. Target your audience
When writing a written essay, it is very important to tailor your style to your target audience. Think about it: the language you use is different depending on whether you are writing your CV, an academic essay, or an article for your personal blog. It is essentially your tone and the choice of words used that make the difference. So, before typing any text on your keyboard, please consider the following points:
Is it a more formal text, such as an academic application, cover letter, or essay? These texts are:
• Usually complex with longer sentences and more in-depth studied points
• Less emotional in nature and not intended to move the reader
• Typically free of contract words (cannot, would not have, television)
On the other hand, you can write informal text like a blog post, personal letter, or advertisement. In this case you can:
• Use simpler language and shorter sentences to break down your ideas
• Include contractions and abbreviations (such as can’t, wouldn’t have, TV)
• Use familiar language and write as if you were addressing the reader directly (this includes slang terms, figures of speech, asides and personal pronouns I, you, my, your …)
• Tint your writing with empathy and emotion
6. Prefer active language to passive language
For clearer and more concise written expression, it is generally better to prefer the active form over the passive form (see for yourself: The shark bit the surfer is clearer and somewhat more evocative than The surfer was bitten by the shark. )
Although there are often good reasons to use the passive form – for example, to express the notion of authority (Children are not allowed to swim without an adult) or to evade the subject tactfully (The cause of the confusion was unknown), it is best to avoid overusing it.
7. Don’t write alone in your bubble
Learning on your own is extremely difficult, so be brave enough to ask for feedback on your writing. Good proofreaders are native English speakers, interested in writing and language, or advanced speakers of English. Once your proofreader has verified your work, put his advice into practice and ask him for a final review before submitting or publishing your article.