How to Improve Your English – Speaking, Reading, Writing
Even if you’re not an ESL student, these tips on how to improve your English will help you speak, read, and write better.
This article is inspired by a recent comment:
“I’m an Asian student studying in a foreign country,” says Howard on How to Write Good Sentences and Paragraphs. “I’ve found out this year that my favorite subject is English, and I want to improve it. But my pronunciation of English words is still wrong. I don’t know how to use words that give people flowless ideas. Sometimes I don’t even know what is the adjective or adverb that I must add in a sentence to make it better. Can you give me some advice?”
My friend, you’re not alone! Prolific writers who speak English as their first language struggle with the same problem. It’s not easy to find the right words, even for bestselling authors! And, I’ve heard that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. After Russian.
How to Improve Your English Skills
These tips for improving your written communication skills range from fun and easy to boring and difficult…unless you’re a linguist (someone who studies languages)…
Play word games – have fun learning to write English better!
The more you immerse yourself in words, sentences, grammar, adverbs, etc, the easier it’ll be to apply them to writing. Instead of studying grammar books (though Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips) is an excellent resource for all writers), play word association games. You’ll absorb far more if you’re having fun.
What kind of word games will improve your English skills? Check out these writing games on Amazon.
And here’s an article about word games by blogger and freelancer, Sharon Hurley Hall: How to Win Every Scrabble Game Without Cheating. Most of tips in that article apply to all word association games.
In fact, here’s one of her tips now…
Join a club (whose members write and speak better than you do)
“There are Scrabble clubs everywhere from small towns to large cities – or you could form your own,” says Hall. “If you join a Scrabble club you will learn the game even faster, because there’s nothing to make a word stick in your brain like having an opponent use it to beat you! Like your ‘real’ brain, your Scrabble brain is a muscle that needs exercise – and competitive play in a club setting will give it just that.”
To this, I’d add that to learn how to find the right words, you need to associate with people who write and speak English better than you do. Tell them you want to improve your English writing skills, and ask for feedback and help.
Rewrite your sentences and paragraphs – but add a twist
What’s the last thing you’ve written – an email, comment on a blog post, or an English essay? Rewrite it using different adverbs and adjectives.
The absolute best way to improve your English writing skills is to rewrite your sentences and paragraphs. (If I were to edit that last sentence, I’d delete the word “absolute.” It’s an unnecessary adjective…what’s the word for a word that modifies an adjective? I can’t remember).
I often edit my old blog posts; not only does it help me spot errors and tighten my writing, it helps me see my writing weaknesses. For instance, I know I use too many exclamations marks. And, I tend towards complex sentences instead of short, powerful ones. And I’m wordy.
Here’s an article that will help you identify your weaknesses: 10 Most Common Writing Mistakes, Plus 10 Remedies.
Do your (boring) homework…it’s like eating your (healthy) vegetables!
“Choose something interesting to read,” writes Steven Starry in How to Improve Your English Level. “Write down the words and expressions that you don’t understand. Take note of the page number and paragraph that the words or expressions are on as you read. After you are done reading, go back to the words and expressions that you didn’t understand and write them in your lexical notebook. Leave space to write an explanation or a definition. From the context, see if you can figure out what the words or expressions mean. After you have done this, go to a dictionary.”
This is homework that nobody likes to do, but it’ll improve your English writing skills. Starry also suggests listening to radio programs, to get a sense of the culture you’re in.
You might also consider hiring a peer tutor or joining a writing group. The long-term rewards of digging into your English writing skills now will far outweigh the sacrifice of time, energy, and money.
What do you think of these tips for improving your English writing skills? Comments welcome below…