For a lot of language learners, writing in English is often easier than speaking in English—or so they think. Usually, that just means that people find it easier to get grammar right when writing, but they don’t pay attention to fluency or readability. Those are vitally important if you’re thinking of going on to further education in an English-speaking country, or you want a job that requires English. Here are six ways to improve your written English.
1 Read lots
Even without physically writing, you can improve your writing skills. By reading as much as you can, you’ll develop your vocabulary and understanding of how English is used. We don’t mean that you should be studying syntax and sentence clauses—simply read for pleasure and you’ll pick things up subconsciously! You could start with the English version of your favorite book, or work your way through these classic novels. And by the way, if you need extra encouragement, Joseph Conrad, the author of Heart of Darkness, didn’t speak English until in his twenties and went on to become one of the most celebrated English novelists of all time!
2 Write how you speak
This doesn’t always apply, but generally you can improve the fluency and readability of your writing by simply writing how you speak. That doesn’t mean writing lots of slang words and uh, eh, and er. But think about how people use simple English when they speak and how natural it sounds, and aim to give your writing the same easy flow.
3 Learn new words
It goes without saying that to write with more confidence and fluency, you need to expand your vocabulary. If you haven’t done so already, start a personal dictionary. Any words that you come across that you don’t know, write down and translate, then test yourself on how many of them you can remember, and start using them in your writing and conversations.
4 Make writing a daily habit
As the saying goes: practice makes perfect. So the only way to improve your writing over time is to keep doing it. Even just 5 or 10 minutes a day, if done every day, will really help you improve your written English. You could keep a diary in English, or write a blog about your experiences learning English and living in a new country, or even start writing your social media posts in English.
5 Form follows function
There are lots of different types of written English—diaries, essays, CVs or résumés, poems, short stories, tweets, and so on. It’s important to consider what type of writing you are doing and its purpose (its function). Also, think about who will be reading it and what you want them to do. When you know the function, you can adapt the style.
6 Check for mistakes
The last thing you do when you write something is carefully read it to make sure it makes sense and you haven’t made any mistakes. Always, always proofread your work.
A version of this post originally appeared on Kaplan International’s blog.