Sanjay: Here are some thoughts for learning to write in English


Sanjay, feel free to rewrite or copy as you wish.


Develop your vocabulary. Children develop their vocabulary before they learn, or understand grammar. Read. Keep track of those words and idioms you don’t understand. Invest in a good, hardcover dictionary – preferably a good British English or American English dictionary as these are likely to be more extensive and inclusive than others. Often, dictionaries for other English dialects are intended to supplement, not replace, a BritE or AmE dictionary.

Don’t try to “show off” your vocabulary. We all want to appear smart, successful, and educated. This facet of human nature, coupled with the legacy of British colonial schools, leads many to make inappropriate word choices. Fortunately, most readers are not fooled, and the writer is seen as pretentious. When selecting a word from among several synonyms, chose the simplest. View words taken from Greek or Latin with suspicion when a Anglo-Saxon word is available.

Use” not “utilize”.
Learn” not “ascertain”.
Start” not “initiate”.

In longer works, use your expanded vocabulary to provide “spice” and variety so the reader does not tire from repetition. But remember, a little spice goes a long way.

Avoid nominalizations, uncover hidden verbs. A “nominalization”, or hidden verb, is a verb converted into a noun. It often needs an extra verb to make sense. Hidden verbs often go hand in hand with passive verbs and combine to give an officious and longwinded style. Some hidden verbs have endings such as: -ment, -tion, -sion, and -ance and often link with verbs such as: achieve, effect, give, have, make, reach, and take.

Please make an application for a personal loan ….”
Please apply for a personal loan ....”

To trace the missing payment, we need to carry out a review of the Agency's accounts so we can gain an understanding of the reason the error occurred."
"To trace the missing payment, we must review the Agency's accounts so we understand why the error occurred."

Hidden verbs also occur when we turn verbs into nouns by adding endings such as -ing, -tion, -ment, or -sion and placing the longer word between the words “the” and “of”.

This means we must undertake the calculation of new figures for the congressional hearing.”
This means calculating new figures for the congressional hearing.”

Reduce Prepositional Sprawl. ESL writers and native-speaking students who wish to appear “educated” often use too many prepositional phrases. At times, it seems that their writing is nothing but one prepositional phrase strung after another. More than one or two prepositional phrases per sentence begins to wear on your readers because they're forced to put more and more material "on hold" as they try to figure out what the phrases modify. As a rule of thumb, the Chicago Manual of Style recommends that prepositions make up only 7 to 10 percent of the total words in a text. This represents no more than two prepositions, on average, per 20 word sentence. Compare the first sentence with ten prepositions to the second sentence with just two.

It is a matter of the gravest possible importance to the health of anyone with a history of a problem with disease of the heart that he or she should avoid the sort of foods with a high percentage of saturated fats.”
Anyone with a history of heart disease should avoid saturated fats.”

Where possible, use adjectives that precede the noun rather than prepositional adjective phrases that follow the noun.

The corral toward the east is enclosed by a white fence.”
The eastern corral is enclosed by a white fence."

Using active verbs, instead of “to be” verbs, helps reduce unneeded prepositional phrases.

The eastern corral is enclosed by a white fence."
A white fence encloses the eastern corral.”

Learn to use possessives. Many prepositional phrases can be replaced with a possessive.

The note from Beverly confessed that she had eaten the leftover pizza.”
Beverly’s note confessed that she had eaten the leftover pizza.”

One of her friends was in a car accident.”
Her friend was in a car accident

“The aim of the government was to impose law and order.
“The government’s aim was to impose law and order

Don’t try to show off. More is not better, especially when it comes to linking multiple thoughts (independent clauses) into a single sentence. Keep each sentence to one thought, or two if you create a compound sentence.  

asked May 23 '12 at 03:39 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Good job, Pribyl. I love the term "prepositional sprawl". I'm stealing it.

TolleyMay 23 '12 at 03:50

A million thanks. I do not know how to thank you. Excellent job. Hats off to your knowledge.

sanjayMay 23 '12 at 07:50

I like the use/utilize rule. It's always been a pet peeve of mine. Kudos on this essay. Paste this over into the Writing Tips thread.

Lewis NeidhardtMay 23 '12 at 12:27

I shared it with my friends, colleague and students, they all along with me liked it.Thanks a lot.

Rahul GuptaMay 23 '12 at 12:40

Brilliant. I am gonna steal it too.

Shawn MooneyMar 20 '13 at 09:15

add comment

0 answers

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.