This blog’s main focus is the spoken English improvement, yet in reality I spend a lot of time creating written content for my blog visitors to enjoy.
Here are a few facts about me and writing in English:
- I’ve been regularly creating written content in English for the last 6 years – I’ve worked in IT customer support (constant e-mailing), I’ve been involved in a few online projects (content creation – articles, video scripts) and I’ve been regularly writing articles for this blog.
- If I really set my mind to it, I can write a 1000 word article in about an hour. Of course, speed isn’t an indication of one’s ability to write fluently and in a native-like fashion; however, the point is – I write as if I were speaking, and that’s part of the success formula to become a good writer.
- A few years ago I was involved in an Internet-based project catering for a native English speaking audience and over the course of a couple of years NO-ONE EVER hinted that the content creator might be a foreigner – even though my English wasn’t as developed as it is now.
So, the point I’m trying to make here is that writing like a native English speaker is easier than you may think! 😉
Tip #1: Learn to Write as if You Were Speaking!
Fluent writing is something even native speakers struggle with, and considering we’re foreigners there’s no reason to feel ashamed if you just can’t seem to be able to write in English in a fluent, native-like fashion.
The first important step you have to take towards achieving your goal of writing fluency is putting all the emotions aside and reading the following piece of advice ten times over until it hammers home:
“When I write, I write THE SAME WAY I SPEAK.”
Now, I’m ready to refute all sorts of arguments against this approach:
- Speech is informal, writing in English involves more formal expressions and language;
- When one speaks, Grammar Tenses may become so simplified that the written piece will look as if written by a child;
- They taught me to write in a sophisticated, intelligent manner at school – how dare you tell me that writing can be equaled to a conversation?!
OK, here we go.
First of all – who said I’m providing advice to wannabe writers and publishers? I’m giving useful tips for the average foreign English speaker who wants to learn how to write faster, more efficiently and in a native-like fashion at work in terms of professional correspondence, in college and maybe on their personal blog.
All that kind of writing is nothing else but casual so you just have to realize that there’s a big difference between what you were lead to believe by your school teacher and the real world.
Secondly, just browse around the Web and check out news websites. After reading just a couple of news articles you’ll realize that content created for large audiences is made up of simple, easy-to-understand language and nobody cares if it sounds childish or whatever!
At the end of the day, in real life no-one cares of how sophisticated is the language used in the written piece, it’s the READIBILITY that matters ❗ I guess no-one can deny that it’s much easier to read something that’s written using simple language and simple sentences than a piece containing plenty of specific terms and expressions.
Tip #2: Learn to Use Online Tools to Edit Your Writing!
I use Google all the time when writing articles for this blog, and I warmly suggest you get into the same habit!
Before we get into any technical details, I want you to try to understand another principle which is crucial in order to achieve a native-live style of English writing:
“I check what I’ve written by adopting an observer’s role.”
In real terms it means you have to write fast, without much thinking, and then go back to what you’ve written and read it looking for imperfections, mistakes, and things that could be said differently to make it sound better.
This approach is very effective because we all foreigners can understand much more than we can say, and while we may say or write awkward sentences, we would instinctively feel that it just doesn’t sound right if we read it or heard it.
I call it the “gut-feeling”, I rely upon it all the time when speaking and also when writing!
Of course, during the writing process we will correct the content as we go along because when we write, we have more time to plan what we’re going to say than when speaking. You have to bear in mind, however, that too much analysis carries a risk of making you feel overwhelmed and you’ll find it very hard to think clearly.
Therefore I suggest that whenever you speak OR write, just spit it out ❗
During a conversation you just have to accept your mistakes because there’s no going back and correcting them (you have to be 100% comfortable with your mistakes because it’s crucial for your fluency improvement to speak freely albeit with some imperfections) , but when you write, you have the advantage of being able to go back and change things around.
Basically you write an e-mail, an article or a letter draft first, and then go back and read it. Now you can change word sequence where necessary, delete redundant words and work with Google to make sure you use proper English collocations ❗
Here are a few articles you should read that will help you understand the whole process:
- Useful Tips on Improving Your English Using Google
- Using Google to Find the Right English Words to Say
- The Only 2 Websites You’ll Ever Need To Improve Your English
Tip #3: Simple Planning Goes a Long Way!
This one may sound like a typical cliché at first, but then the same goes with all simple and good advice in life!
I’m not messing with you – you have to have a plan before you start writing something which basically means you have to know what EXACTLY you want to say. This may sound silly, but you know why I used to spend hours upon hours staring at a blank monitor unable to write a single sentence? Simply because I didn’t have a CLEAR IDEA of what I wanted to write!
Just because you know the topic of an article or you have a general notion of what you want to write in an e-mail, doesn’t mean you’ll be able to just start writing and sentences will type themselves on the screen (or on a piece of paper for that matter, but I’m just assuming that these days most of us use electronic means to create content)!
What I suggest is very simple:
“When I write, I create a list of the main 3 – 6 points I want to write about!”
Just to give you an idea what it means, let’s take this very article as an example.
Before I started writing, I had the general notion of what I wanted to write about; I had the headline and a general understanding of the topics I wanted to cover in the article.
I couldn’t, however, just start writing in a fluent and a coherent manner because there were no set guidelines, there was no blueprint, and there was no plan! To write this article from scratch without advance planning would be the same as conducting a meeting without having a schedule. Everyone would play it by ear and the ensuing chaos would make it impossible to draw any conclusions and come to agreement on certain points.
So I spent a couple of minutes brainstorming and eventually I came up with the tree basic principles to cover in this article. Now when I’m just about to finish this blog post, I can tell you with honesty – I started it at 8:45 AM and now it’s 10:15 AM. If I take out a tea break, the total amount of time needed to get this article written is just over an hour and a quarter. Not bad for a 1500 word article, what do you think?
If I hadn’t refined the 3 main sub-headlines of the article, however, I would be struggling with it for days as my past experience tells me, so it just goes to show how effective such simple planning is.
Please understand this, my fellow foreigners – just because everything you want to say or write is in your head, doesn’t mean it will come out in a well-structured manner! You HAVE TO GIVE IT A SHAPE AND FORM by defining the main points and only then you’ll be able to accomplish the writing task – or give a coherent answer if it’s spoken English we’re talking about!
Also bear in mind that you have to spend a lot of time engaged in constant writing to achieve a native-like level of English writing.
Just by observing the 3 tips I gave you in this article won’t make you a native-like English writer overnight. It will, however, speed up your learning curve considerably, this I can guarantee!
P.S. Would you like to find out why I’m highlighting some of the text in red? Read this article and you’ll learn why it’s so important to learn idiomatic expressions and how it will help you to improve your spoken English!
P.S.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!