12 Valuable Beginner Tips for Writing in English
Grab a cup of coffee or tea.
Turn on your favorite music (in English).
Find a piece of paper or a notebook.
Choose your favorite pen or pencil, and then get comfortable at a desk or table.
We are going to write!
When you are beginning to learn English, it is really important to write regularly. It is easy to forget about English writing, though, since most learners are focused on topics like vocabulary and grammar.
But guess what? Writing can help you learn English vocabulary, grammar, spelling and more!
So to get you started writing, here are 12 useful tips for learners who are studying English for beginners. Since reading and writing are so closely related, some of these tips will also involve reading.
12 Valuable Beginner Tips for Writing in English
1. Practice Writing in English Every Day
You should try to write in English every day. Repetition (doing the same thing over and over again) will really help you learn the skill of writing. Writing in English will be difficult at first, but if you write a little every day, it will start to get easier.
To make sure you never skip a day, use a system to track your progress. This could be writing it on your calendar, or using a site or app like Chains. It also helps to choose a specific time of day to sit down and write, which is our next tip.
You can also make use of techniques such as watching videos to keep you writing. For example, you can watch the following video from FluentU’s English YouTube channel and learn 50 common English verbs you can later use to write sample sentences:
FluentU English’s videos are the perfect companion to your writing practice. Subscribe to the channel, check out its videos and get ideas to keep writing your way to fluency!
2. Find the Best Time and Place to Write
Everyone has a best time of day to write. Maybe your head is the clearest in the morning. Maybe you’re a “night owl,” (someone who likes to stay up late) and you are most creative at midnight. Try writing at different times of the day to find out what time works best for you.
After you know when to write, you will also want to know where. Maybe you have trouble writing where there is a lot of noise. In that case, try writing in a quiet place like a library. Maybe you need a little background noise, and so you write best in a busy coffee shop. Experiment and see what works best for you.
If you need some background noise to write, you can use websites like Rainy Mood and Calm for relaxing background noise.
3. Have a Specific Place You Keep Your Writing
Find a notebook to keep all of your writing in. By keeping it all in one place, you will be able to look back on your writing and see how much progress you’ve made. You will also be able to go through all of your writing at once to see if you keep making the same mistakes.
If you like typing on a computer instead, you might consider using Evernote to keep your writing together. Evernote is a website (and smartphone app) that helps organize your life. You can keep all of your writing in Evernote. You can also keep track of your writing schedule with the website’s calendar.
Another fun place to keep your writing is on a blog. You can easily start a blog on Blogger or WordPress, and you can either make the blog private (so only you can see it) or public (others can read and comment).
4. Pick a Topic and Write
When you’re ready to start, choose a topic and then just start writing about it. If your topic is “fishing,” for example, it doesn’t matter if you write facts about fishing or a story about when you went fishing. Just start writing anything at all! Let your mind wander on the topic. Set a timer for 5 minutes and write the entire time. Once you get used to this, write for 10 minutes at a time.
The point of this writing exercise isn’t to write a perfect story. The purpose is to get your brain thinking in English, and to see how much you are able to say about your topic. If you can’t think of a topic, just start free writing. Free writing is when you put your pen on the paper and write everything that comes to your mind. It doesn’t matter if the ideas connect or not.
5. Keep a Journal in English
By keeping a personal journal (diary) in English, you will make sure you write every day. It is a great way to practice writing multiple tenses. You will write in the past tense about all of the things you did during the day, and you will write in the future tense about the things you are planning to do tomorrow, for example.
When you know that you will write in your journal every day, you will probably start to think in English more often during the day. That’s because as you do things, you might think about how to write about them in English.
6. Write More Than One Draft
The first draft (copy) that you write is not going to be perfect. Write one draft, and then go back and review it for mistakes. Remember the notebook where you’re keeping all your writing? When you look for mistakes, you should make a list of your common mistakes in that notebook. Then, when you edit your first draft, check for your most common mistakes.
You can also use sites like Hemingway Editor, Read-Able, Grammar Check or Reverso to check spelling and grammar—but remember, these programs cannot find all mistakes.
Once you have reviewed your writing, go back and write the entire thing again. When you rewrite it with the correct grammar, spellings and tenses, you will learn the corrections.
7. Have a Friend Edit Your Writing
Since you most likely won’t find all of your mistakes, have a friend who is fluent in English edit your writing. Having someone else look at your work will improve your writing and give you new, creative ideas for how to express ideas in English. They can edit the whole document or just a part that you’re having trouble with.
It’s good to get a second opinion on your writing. If you don’t know anyone who can edit your writing, use Lang-8. Lang-8 is a community of native speakers who will edit your writing for free.
If you want a more reliable way to have your writing corrected and are willing to pay for it, Editorr is a service that will edit a piece of writing within minutes. You can then compare the edited piece to your original one, and learn from it for the next time you write. Editorr has real, qualified editors working for them, so you can feel assured that the corrections you receive are accurate.
8. Keep an English Dictionary with You
When you hear or see a new word, look it up in your dictionary. Say the word a few times and write it down. Say it until it sounds familiar to your ear. The next time you write, try to write at least one sentence with each new word. When you find words that you really like or that seem important, highlight them in the dictionary (it’s okay—it’s your dictionary).
If you don’t want to keep a physical dictionary with you all the time, you can use online dictionaries like Merriam Webster or Dictionary.com. You can also use one of these dictionary apps for your smartphone.
9. Learn Synonyms and Antonyms
Whenever you look up a new vocabulary word in English, try to learn at least one word with the same meaning (this is a synonym), and one that has the opposite meaning (this is an antonym). For example, take the word “great.” Synonyms include “excellent” and “fantastic,” while antonyms are “plain,” “ordinary” and “bad.”
By learning more than one word for each concept, you will be able to communicate better with native speakers when you write. Here is a thesaurus, which is a dictionary full of synonyms and antonyms. Type in a word and the thesaurus will give you a list of synonyms in orange, and antonyms in grey. If you click the checkbox “Common,” it will only show synonyms and antonyms that are commonly used.
Visual Thesaurus is another great resource you can use. It’s a little different from a regular thesaurus, because it shows you the links between words in a visual format, with lines between related words. This allows you to explore new words in an easy, fun way, while still getting access to definitions and examples for context.
10. Make Flashcards
When you look up new words, their synonyms and their antonyms, make flashcards for them. On one side of the flashcard, write the word. On the other side, write the meaning, part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, etc.) and a sentence using that word. Review these flashcards often, and try to use the words in your own writing as often as possible.
But if you want to have the best flashcards in the world already done for you, you need to check FluentU out.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
11. Read English Books out Loud
As I said earlier, reading and writing are connected, so reading more often in English will help you become a better writer. Start out with simple books. Write down any words that are new to you, and practice saying them. Work your way up to books like “Harry Potter” or “The Hunger Games.” These books are written for young adults and older adults, but the language is still quite simple.
Get a library card to access thousands of free books from your local library. You can also join websites like Audible and listen to any book you’d like. Your first book is free with Audible. After that, you will have to pay a small price for each book.
12. Translate Songs and Poems
Choose your favorite song, and translate the lyrics into English. Then, try singing it in English. You could even try to rewrite some of the lines in English to make them rhyme. You can do the same thing with poems you love. The words used in songs and poems will likely be very different from the words you see everyday in books, newspapers and even your journal.
By practicing songs, you’ll be able to practice writing, and you will also learn new ways to talk about concepts like love, faith, fear, rejection (being told “no”) and other topics usually addressed in music. Lyrics Translate is a really fun website that lets you choose an artist or song title and get translated lyrics form a huge selection of languages. Or, you can select the language and the website will give you a list of songs.
The most important part of all these tips is to write in English regularly. Learning to write in English is a learning process. You need to build your vocabulary, learn proper grammar and learn how to spell correctly.
The more often you practice your skills, the easier it will become. Have fun writing!
Kenneth Waldman is a freelance writer and content editor at essay writing service EssayMama.com. He draws his inspiration out of traveling and sport.