Most learners get the opportunity to study English at some point during their school career. However, the standard of ESOL courses in school is generally uninspiring. Many students are actually discouraged from pursuing further studies in the language-arts because of disappointing language classes at school.

It would be in everybody’s best interests if English was learned naturally within a classroom environment. Unfortunately language teachers tend to focus so much on spelling, grammar and punctuation that writing exercises end up being repetitive and boring.

Here's how to improve your English written communication skills:

Reading an English Newspaper

Reading the English paper on a regular basis is something that any of us can do in order to improve our comprehension, reading and writing skills. Newspapers are probably the cheapest form of media and are readily available on almost any street corner.

collection of newspapers
If you don't know where to start - start with a newspaper - Unsplash

At first, you may believe you don’t have the English skills to read the kind of formal writing that’s found in newsprint.  But even with a weak foundation from your school level English you’d be surprised how quickly you can catch on.

Naturally, it helps even more if you take an online writing course in English or receive some additional tutoring if you’re really eager to improve your writing skills.

So How Exactly Does It Help?

The expository journalistic writing style you’ll encounter when reading a newspaper is beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, the informative language is aimed at first-language English speakers which will be a good challenge for anyone hoping to hone their writing and grammar skills. You’re bound to expand your vocabulary too and become familiar with phrases you wouldn’t learn from English textbooks.

To be fair, reading a newspaper isn’t the easiest task if you’re not fluent in English, so don’t be discouraged if you feel like you can’t understand half the words at first. Give it time.

You’ll be amazed how quickly things like your sentence structure, grammar and punctuation will improve.

Try to read easier topics in the beginning. Things like sport columns or film reviews tend to use less a complex word choice.

In fact you don’t even have to purchase a newspaper these days as most papers have very good websites. But sometimes it’s nice just to get a change from always reading online writing.

Reading a Good Novel

Even if you’ve never been a keen reader, you’ll be amazed at the writing tips you can pick up from reading a good book. Don’t be put off by the boring set work books you were forced to study at school! Now it’s your chance to dig into some writing styles of your choice.

How to Improve Your Writing by Reading a Favourite Book?

When Harry Potter was first published it took the world by storm and millions of copies seemed to sell almost overnight. The only problem was that at first only the English translation was available.

Letter to Harry Potter
J.K. Rowling's novels were such a success that people all over the world began reading English novels for the first time just to find out more about Hogwarts and Harry Potter - Unsplash

But so many people who were eager to discover what all the fuss was about and decided to jump in and read the original English books instead of waiting for them to be translated into their mother tongue. Not only did they get to read the fascinating adventures that took place at Hogwarts – they improved their English too!

Never mind about all the English spelling and report writing that you have to do in your English lessons – the magical world of fiction will teach you all you need to know about creative writing and take your storytelling to new heights!

If you’re struggling to get through an unfamiliar English novel then try reading an English book that you’ve already read in your home language.

Watching English Television and Films Can Be Educational!

Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the books – who says learning can’t be fun? Watching TV may not sound like the ultimate way to improve writing skills but it will improve your communication skills and speaking eloquently is equally important as writing skills.

There’s English speaking television available these days thanks to platforms such as Netflix and Showmax. Spend a little downtime watching a popular series and you may be pleasantly surprised at how much it can impact your written communication.

person with feet on table watching tv
These days there's so much variety to choose from if you decide to watch English television - Unsplash

Don’t bother waiting for your favourite show to be dubbed – this will only handicap your journey towards fluency and it definitely won’t do anything for your written skills.

A better option would be to turn on the subtitles in your first language. Then you could re-watch the same show with the English subtitles on and you’ll be helping your spelling and grammar skills while at the same time seeing how to convert the written text into correctly pronounced words.

Study Conjunctions

Good writing is all about converting your thoughts into clear and concise ideas that can be communicated in the written word.

There are many types of writing but most of the time writing activities will call for you to use a more formal approach to English.

There’s little room for error when you’re writing in English (or any language for that matter). Grammatical errors can’t be disguised and you need to pay far more attention to your word choice. When writing it’s important to use a greater variety of English words and phrases.

If you’re aspiring to achieve excellent writing skills then you need to really focus on the basics so that your compositions have what writers refer to as “readability”.

One of the keys to better writing is the effective use of conjunctions.

These linking words are the grammatical element in paragraph structure that provide natural flow and thus an essential component for readability.

Examples of conjunctions are: because, and, however, therefore etc.

So if you want to have better writing strategies then begin by familiarising yourself with conjunctions.

These small words contribute enormously towards effective writing by improving paragraph structure which enhances any written composition!

Develop Your Word Choice

Good writing isn’t only about accuracy; it’s just as much about knowing how to avoid sounding boring and repetitive. That’s why it’s essential to constantly cultivate your vocabulary and practise using new words and phrases.

But how can you learn new words and retain them and learn how to use them in your writing?

Make a daily habit of vocabulary drills. Take ten minutes out of your day to go over new words - try to practise at least ten. A good way to ensure you always do this is to allocate yourself a specific time – this could be while you’re on the treadmill or washing the dishes after supper.

coffee being poured from moka pot with newspaper in background
Practise new words each day with your morning coffee - it's always good to revise when your brain is still fresh - Unsplash

Then quickly gloss over the words in the morning as soon as you wake up just to revise and reinforce what you learned the previous day.

Push Yourself to Use Only English for Writing

In the same way that you should try to speak in English at every given opportunity if you want to be able to communicate fluently, you should try to use English for all your writing assignments if your goal is to improve your written communication.

Jump in at the deep end and swim your way to writing success!

Turn to English for all your email writing and informal writing such as texts. Then you can work on your academic writing skills and soon you will be able to use English for every task that involves writing.

Don’t be surprised if your written skills don’t seem to reflect your spoken skills.

Writing has a way of mercilessly exposing our flaws. But the good news is, that the more you write and discover your errors, the quicker you’ll learn how to avoid mistakes.

Simply typing a word document in English will act as an automatic writing tutor, underlining spelling and grammatical errors that you can go back and fix. And you’ll find that in the process of writing on your computer you’re receiving basic writing tips.

At first there will be loads of mistakes and that’s totally fine! But in no time those errors will start falling away without you even realising it.

A Dictionary Is the Key to Good Spelling

Because of auto-correct, most of us have lazy spelling skills. We may have learnt how to spell correctly in primary school but as time goes by and we rely on things like predictive text, our brains seem to be getting slack.

However, the truth is that spelling errors are a big deal. And if we have to be honest, when we see silly spelling mistakes our first reaction is to assume the person who made the mistake is either uneducated or unintelligent.

This remains true in the professional world. When you’re competing for a job, especially one that hinges on effective business communication; one spelling error on your application will put you at the bottom of the list.

It’s absolutely essential to own a dictionary and a thesaurus if you’re serious about improving your English writing and editing skills. Have a dictionary with you whenever you invest time into reading challenging reading material such as newspapers and novels.

When you come across a word you don’t understand, take the time to look it up. Don’t just Google it. The whole process of using a dictionary contributes not only to your vocabulary but also to your understanding of how words are spelled.

person using smartphone and laptop
A dictionary - whether online or in hard copy - is an indispensable tool for any language student - Unsplash

A thesaurus is a writer’s best friend and an invaluable tool to ESOL students that aim to enrich their vocabulary and improve their English composition whether it’s for creative writing, letter writing or academic papers. Using a variety of words is essential to good writing.

But most importantly, if you want to make a good impression – learn how to avoid spelling errors at all costs!

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Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.