15 Tips for Improvement for ESL Writers

This is a guest post by Denise Gabbard.

As an American and native English speaker, I nonetheless still make style or grammar mistakes in my writing. I can only imagine how confusing and difficult English must seem to those who grew up speaking a completely different language. I began thinking about this when one of my blog’s readers asked how they could improve their writing skills, and their difficulties with grammar and sentence structure were apparent.

Ordinarily, I suggest that people needing help with their writing skills read as much as possible and proofread their work aloud or have someone else with good skills look over their writing for them. Those things can help non-native speakers, but the tips below will give them a little additional help.

1. Write a blog.

Starting a blog and writing regularly can help you practice your skills, and if you have a grammar slip perhaps someone will gently point out a better way. This is a great way to hone your skills while interacting with your readers. Accept constructive criticism and make adjustments as needed.

2. Become a voracious reader.

You should read English language blogs, books, and newspapers frequently. Not only will you learn about many new topics, but also you will be reinforcing proper grammar and sentence structure. If you come across anything you do not understand, look it up right away, or make a note to check it out later. You might also consider keeping a journal of these words to consult on occasion.

3. Chat with English speakers.

Learning to think in English is an important step toward perfecting your skills, and by chatting online, you must quickly respond to questions asked of you.

4. Proofread and rewrite.

Keep your dictionary and thesaurus nearby and read your work aloud if possible. When you verbalize your words, you can sometimes pick out things that do not sound right and correct them.

5. Have someone check it out for you.

Alternatively, you can ask a native speaker with good grammar skills to read over your work and point out any difficulties or awkward passages so that you can correct them.

6. Accept criticism happily.

No one likes knowing they are doing something wrong, but in this instance, it is how you will grow as a writer. Thank people who point out problem areas and suggest better ways.

7. Watch movies and TV.

Watching television and movies is a great way to pick up idioms and common slang terms of the language.

8. Keep things simple.

No need to be completely obsessed with little nuances of the language, so keep things simple and straightforward.

9. Hire a freelance writer.

This might seem counterproductive, but it can help you to understand the language better, especially if you give them a rough draft in English and then read their finished product. If you really want to do it yourself, consider paying them instead to proofread and edit your writing, saving it in Word track changes format so that you can see what they corrected.

10. Write for content mills.

Writing sites like Textbroker and iWriter do not pay very well at all, but they do give you a ready platform for practicing your English writing skills while making a little money and learning a bit about SEO and article submission.

11. Talk to native English speakers.

Have conversations with friends and acquaintances, and watch them as they speak for mannerisms and patterns. Ask for help—you will be surprised that they are more than happy to give you the assistance you need.

12. Read writer’s guides.

Some classic writing books, like The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, can help you learn the important style and grammar rules that form the basis of the English language.

13. Translate things.

Find articles in your native tongue and manually translate it to English, allowing one of your native English-speaking friends to check it out and comment on it for you.

14. Be patient and persistent.

Do not give up, because the more you practice, the better your writing will be. Eventually, you will write so well that no one will have a clue that you ever had issues.

15. Use these resources.

This short list of resources can help improve your English. Some are useful as reference materials and others offer quizzes and user forums where you can practice your writing skills.

Implement just a few of these fifteen tips and you will see an enormous change in your English writing skills, and that in turn will improve your confidence. Keep learning on a daily basis and your skills will soon be equal to those who learned English as small children, and will write well enough for any publication.

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  1. says

    Denise You gives me a clear picture on how to write an English content properly. I think my English is not good as I can speak just a little and not very well because English is not my mother lang (I’m stay in Indonesia) but after reading your post it seem you already gives me a clear picture on how to write an English content properly and teach me step by step on this matter…You educating me well Denise !!

    Thanks for this lovely post.
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  2. says

    The points above makes a great list for ESL writers. The quality of one’s writeups and the standard of one’s writing is perhaps the most important things when it comes to a blog, and the ability to get traffic on your blog. Writing quality is pretty hard, and it becomes more of an issue if English is not your first language. Often times, you stumble upon something on Google, only to find that the piece is so badly written, it’s near-illegible. Compromising on quality when it comes to your content is counter-productive, and adversely affects your SEO as well.
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  3. says

    Denise. You made all of those point clear. I think among those tips writing a blog and reading various English blogs, newspapers, magazines etc. are the best option to improve as writer. The more they will read the more they will learn the hidden art of writing content. And in internet there are numerous resources to learn English as you mentioned in your post.
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  4. says

    Hi Denise,
    I like all the points that you have shared. I am sure these points would definitely be a great help for all the ESL writers. Yes, it would sound interesting but yes I like the second as well as the fourteenth point. Being a voracious reader would help you to update yourself with a great, unique post and also the fourteenth point which states that you need to be patient and should wait for your visitors to read your post. Well, I think this is not a quick process and you need to wait for your readers. Thanks for the share!!

  5. says

    Hey Denise,

    I’m a non-native English speaker and I write a blog in English. So I’m very familiar with the issue. And nothing beats hard work, but I’ve got two tricks that have improved my writing significantly.

    The first trick is basically your advice about talking to native English speakers, on steroids. And it’s to have English speaking students live at your house. My parents had 8 American exchange students living at our house, when I grew up (they stayed a semester each). And being forced to speak English on a daily basis did wonders for me.

    The second trick is to read what you write out loud. That way you will hear if something sounds strange.
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  6. says

    Reading is such an underrated way to increase your understanding of any language. If you can familiarize yourself with top quality writer like Orwell or Pynchon, you will see huge increases to your effective vocabulary and ability to string together quality sentences. We all need to read more!

  7. says

    Hello Denise,

    A brilliant guide for many who are struggling with their English. I want to add here. I have been a language trainer for many years and one common question I face is, how to speak confidently. Confidence comes with practice. I had the habit of watching my favorite sitcoms in my childhood and that is how I could learn a lot of communication skills. Apart from that, watching English news on TV also proved useful for me.

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