Are you finding it impossible to wrap your head around story ideas for your Creative Writing exams? Perhaps expressing the lifestyle of the Victorian elite society from the novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” in the form of a literature essay is extremely difficult. Are you looking for ways to improve your ability to write better narrative and descriptive essays? We have some tips and tricks that may just work for you.

Never take for granted the value of sitting down and working on an essay (albeit a literary essay or a narrative, argumentative or descriptive essay). Allowing some time to let your thoughts flow creatively is essential to crafting a good essay and serves as an excellent practice technique prior to your paper 3 Creative Writing or paper 2 Literature essay exam. If you look on the parent24 website, you will find Literature and Creative Writing memoranda for past grade 12 papers. It is always good to view the memoranda so you can understand what it is that the markers of essays expect from students. In this way, you will know how to craft an essay whilst adhering to the criteria established by markers. If you are in a lower grade, you can look at the essay rubrics given to you by your teacher.

There is value in preparing essays in advance. Writing a practice essay in a less stressful environment, like your home, will lead to a better-written essay than one written in a timed exam session. You can always adapt the essay you have prepared at home to the topic that appears in your paper thereafter. 

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How to Improve Your English: Diction and Parts of Speech

Your choice of words is of utmost importance.

Think about these two verbs: “slammed” and “closed.” Which verb would be more impactful when describing how an angry person closed the door behind him?  The word, “slammed” is called a strong verb and has a greater impact in relating the atmosphere of anger that the writer is attempting to create. One thing that you must remember is that the word choice or diction used by a writer is vital to the essay.

Through words, a writer can create a certain atmosphere and even evoke a certain mood.

You can interpret the tone that a writer is writing in just by looking at the diction used by the writer. When choosing words for your essay, look carefully at every word that you write. See what the denotation of every word is and also look at the connotation given off by each word in your essay.

Writing by using compound and complex sentences in an essay does not necessarily mean more sophisticated writing. You need to vary the type of sentences used to make your writing more exciting. For example, if you would like to emphasise a point, use a simple sentence to do so.

What happens if you do not know too many words in the English language?

Start writing by using words that you do know. Use simple adjectives like, “nice” and “great”. Thereafter use a thesaurus to look up synonyms for these basic words. You would be amazed by how many great synonyms there are for some basic words. While using a thesaurus during practice is ideal, don’t become too reliant on using the thesaurus, you must learn some new words on your own because you are not allowed to consult a dictionary or thesaurus during your paper.

Are you looking for ways to improve the words that you chose to use in an essay?  Here are ways on how to improve your vocabulary.

One of the first things that you start learning is your parts of speech. From the foundation phase onwards, you learn about nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and conjunctions.

Wooden tiles with letters forming words
Your choice of words is important to write an impactful essay.

1. When writing an essay you should focus on using conjunctions.

Conjunctions allow you to join simple sentences and ensure that your writing flows.

Coordinating conjunctions like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (FANBOYS) are often best for connecting compound sentences. You would use subordinating conjunctions to join complex sentences.

2.  To make your writing more vivid, use adjectives.

Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns and can add greater depth to your writing. You also need to be careful when using adjectives as they can have a contradictory effect on your writing. Descriptive essays may call for more adjectives to be used. However, try to steer clear of using too many adjectives for your narrative essays. Adjectives are not necessary for literary essays at all.

In order to get the use of adjectives correct, use adjectives to describe objects or subjects that the reader would not be able to imagine without adjectives.

3.  Another tip when writing is to always use the active voice rather than the passive voice.

The active voice always follows the pattern of the subject, verb, and then object. The passive voice often shows the action being done by a subject. The active voice is accompanied by less confusion about who is performing the action.

Only alternate between the active and passive voice, once you have gained the confidence to do so. Your teacher will, however, not penalise you for writing an entire essay in the active voice only.

For more tips and tricks on how to write a potent essay, read:  how to write better essays.

How to Improve Your English Marks?

Writing Essays and Other Transactional Writing is Tough

One of the ways to ensure you get better marks in your transactional writing paper is to ensure that you master the formats for all transactional tasks in advance. If you need to write a formal letter or an obituary, you must know the format for both tasks. You do get some marks for adhering to a correct transactional writing format. Writing an essay that will have an impact on your teacher can be difficult but it’s not impossible. A rule of thumb is to always write about things you know well. Imagining something like an alien invasion that you’ve never experienced can be harder to write about than you may think.

However, writing essays is not the only aspect that you need to do well in to improve your English mark. You also need to know grammar rules well in order to ace the textual editing section in your Comprehension and Language paper. Perhaps you need some help with improving your understanding of English grammar rules, here are some ways on how to improve your grammar.

notepads and stationery on desk
Writing practice essays is a great way to hone your essay writing skills. - Source: Unsplash

Start With Improving Your Vocabulary and Grammar

The truth is that the more words that you know in the English language, the easier it becomes to interpret what you are reading. A great English teacher once recommended reading the dictionary often. As silly as the thought of reading a dictionary may be, paging through the dictionary may enable you to learn words that you have not otherwise learnt if you did not do so.

An added tip to get your writing better and to help you understand more complex words is to read. It need not only be your setwork books like, “Tsotsi,” and “Mother to Mother,” that you should read and take an interest in.  Certain fictional books written by younger international authors like Zoe Sugg can prove to be more relatable and thus tons more enjoyable. A relatable read will enable you to collect some writing tips of your own.

As for grammar, you need to learn all about common grammatical errors. Knowing what comma splice, split infinitive, malapropism, and redundancy errors are, is your first step towards bettering your own understanding of correct grammar usage. Always edit your own writing to see when you are committing the same grammatical faults that you have learnt about. Correcting your own errors is essential for becoming better at identifying the grammatical errors of other writers.

How to Better your English?

If you are reading this post, you have probably already decided to improve your English. You also need to remember that from grade 4 onwards, you get confronted with many terms in the English language. In grade 4, you are introduced to concepts like countable and uncountable nouns. Thereafter at a high school level, you are introduced to concepts like spoonerisms and things become more complex. Use a good English study guide to revisit certain concepts in your home language that you may have forgotten. The Answer Series offers some great study guides that reinforce certain English concepts that have been taught from the intermediate phase onwards.

Use Past Papers

One of the best ways to enhance your marks in English (especially in the further education and training phase) is by working through past papers. You must attempt an entire paper on your own. You must always check your answers with that of the memorandum to see if you have mastered the art of answering well. Past papers will introduce you to English concepts that are often tested. You will notice certain errors like concord errors always get tested in the past papers. This means you will need to do more research on concord errors in order to be able to identify these types of errors in the future.

What Can I Do to Improve My English?

girl reading book in front of bookshelf
Reading more is a sure way to improve in English.

You may find that working on your own through past papers is an effective strategy that will help you to improve your English mark. However, if you are finding it difficult to understand how to answer certain comprehension types of questions, you could seek help from a qualified English tutor.

For many students who are lazy to read on their own, tuition lessons allow you to get absorbed in a good piece of writing even for a while.

An expert tutor may also check your completed literature research essay for you and give you guidance on how to perfect the Harvard referencing style. Read up more about how to cite a source in an essay.

When it comes to wanting to learn English, the recipe is simple:

  • Read more
  • Write more
  • Listen attentively and have an opinion about everything (including an opinion for the ending of the movies that you watch)
  • Ask your teacher or English tutor for guidance when in doubt
  • Consult past papers and English study guides often
  • Try out online English quizzes from websites like Quizizz

The more interested you are in the English language, the easier it will be to do well in the language.

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Laila

Laila is an enthusiastic English educator and a fun-filled freelance writer. She has accomplished her dream of getting her first book published and has managed to write over 1 000 000 words since beginning her freelance career. In her free time, she is a travel blogger who explores all South Africa has to offer.