How to improve your writing skills?

The book Eragon was written by a 15-year-old. As you read the book, you can make out it has been written by a young person. The plot is not original. As someone said, “The story is a cross between Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.” But the author, young Christopher Paolini pulls off a beautiful paragraph of advice for all of us. The language is direct, and the words are well-chosen. This is what he says: “First, let no one rule your mind or body. Take special care that your thoughts remain unfettered… Give men your ear, but not your heart. Show respect for those in power, but don’t follow them blindly. Judge with logic and reason, but comment not. Consider none your superior whatever their rank or station in life. Treat all fairly, or they will seek revenge. Be careful with your money. Hold fast to your beliefs and others will listen.” Wouldn’t you like to structure your sentences like this? With practice, you can. Here are some tried-and-tested steps to improve how you write in English.

Expand your vocabulary

Do not believe those who say they can write whatever they want with just 800 words. To express yourself clearly, you need a wide, active vocabulary. You may know a lot of words, but can you use them well to make your thoughts clear? Can you use them correctly?

For example: “If you are waiting for the demise in house prices, you may have to wait a long time.” Did you find the mistake in word usage? It is “decline”, not “demise.”

Learn new words not as just words, but in a context. In other words, read books to learn them.

Tip: When you learn a new word, try to learn all the forms of that word and the prepositions that are usually used with it, once you have understood what it means, use it in a sentence of your own.

Watch out for homophones

There are words that can trip you by sounding the same. For example, “We went site-seeing and had a great time.” You see what I mean? You went sight-seeing if you enjoyed yourself doing it. The word “site” is used when you want to talk of a place of happening. “The site of the accident was cordoned off by the police.” Check the word you have used if there is one that sounds the same, like “bear” and “bare”, “pour” and “pore.”

Tip: As you read, make a visual note of what the word looks like. Ask yourself: Which word should I use here? “There”, “their”, or “they’re”?

Read, read, read

“To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life,” said W. Somerset Maugham, in Books and You. Reading constantly is the most important tool for getting familiar with the way English is written. When you read often, you memorise the phrases, some unique ways of arranging words and sentences. Reading good prose helps you correct your mistakes. Are you starting to read outside school books? Start with simple ones, may be meant for 9-10-year-olds. Read stories that interest you. Browse in bookstores as often as you can and buy books. Make reading a part of daily routine. There is another way to read now. A new genre called “text stories” has emerged in which you read a story through text messages. How exciting! You can read them on the go!


Do you prefer to “listen to” than read stories? Then look for audiobooks that stores have now. Look for them online. Or download them into your mobile. Some of these apps allow you to control the speed at which the story is narrated.  Listen to them at your own pace!

Tip: Read each text several times to make sure you understand how to use new words and expression in the text.

Develop a style of your own

Once you are familiar with the writing styles of classical authors, develop a style of your own. For example, you write using only the active voice, consciously avoiding the passive voice. If you are writing to the local authority complaining about street lights, focus on business English.

Improve your grammar and punctuation

Grammatical mistakes you make may distort the meaning. For example, if you mix up the tenses, the reader wonders whether the event has taken place or not. Use the appropriate tense and remember to use punctuation correctly. Avoid using whole lot exclamation marks. Avoid smileys.

Tip: Proofread carefully. Your reader will take it as carelessness if you make mistakes in grammar and usage.

Keep practicing

Writing is a lonely art. You have to sit at your computer and bang at the keys, coordinating your thoughts and the speed of keying in. so the only way to improve is to write, write daily and whenever you can. Key in your thoughts on a small diary or into your mobile phone. Develop it later. Be prepared to edit, add words, re-write when you find a new way of expressing the thought. But write! Practice makes perfect!

Get feedback

When you have finished writing something – letter, note, passage, short story – put it on your Facebook or blog page. See how readers respond to it. There is this Facebook group called “Learn English with Jack” with a chat feature. The app Hello Talk has a correction feature that should help. Or go to Grammarly that will help you correct your prose. Another app you can use is Linguee. It has a website as well. Here you will get real-life examples of words and phrases written/spoken by native English speakers.

Read it to people who care, ask for honest suggestions. Constantly be on the alert to improve your writing. Correct your mistakes at once. Soon you will discard these.

Copy down attractive sayings

Copy down, or file away on your PC attractive sayings, phrases and sentences, I do this constantly. I read these often so it becomes a model when I write. I keep a paper on the side of my computer in which I put down errors that I need to avoid. For example, the phrase, “according to me” is under the “Do Not Use” column. There is no such expression.


Picture Credit : Google