Lisa’s Study Corner. THIS WEEK – How can I improve my writing?
Last week we looked at the different ways you could practise writing. This week, we look at how writing is different to speaking. Some students who are really good at speaking are not good writers. The reason for this is that writing is a completely different activity with a different set of skills. Therefore, to improve your writing, you need to concentrate on the following:
Nothing is more off-putting to a reader than bad spelling and if you are planning to use English at work, or take an English exam, it’s really important that you work on this now. Spelling is very difficult in English because the spelling is not automatically related to the sound. Think of though, thought, through and tough; they are all written with the vowels “O” and “U” but, when spoken, the vowel sound is completely different. In contrast, short, your, daughter, bald, draw, warden and floor have different spelling but the same vowel sound. This means that you have to LEARN and then practise English spelling. For starters, why not have a look at http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/words/common-misspellings and see if you are making any of these common mistakes.
- Punctuation and Layout
This can be a difficult one for some students because the rules in their countries are very different from the rules in English. For example, in Japan, you start a new paragraph for every sentence. However, in English, you only start a new paragraph when you move onto a new topic. Then, in Latin American countries, sentences are very long; often the entire length of the paragraph with only a comma to show when to pause for breath. This is considered wrong in English. In English there are strict rules about what can and can’t be a sentence. The rules are too in depth to go into here but you can find explanations online or ask your teacher or GIL teacher. Then, if you want to practise with a range of punctuation, I recommend visiting http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/punctuation and http://grammar.about.com/od/punctuationexercises as a starting point.
Finally, when writing, you need to consider register. Register is basically the level of formality or politeness that you use. So, for example, if you are writing a text message to a friend, you might write, “Soz I’m gonna be l8 cos bed is too comfy” but if you were sending an email with the same information to your boss you would write “I’m so sorry, I overslept. I’m afraid I’ll be slightly late.”
English has quite complex rules when it comes to register, especially with letter writing. You need to learn these rules and try to be consistent in the level of formality you use. For a basic introduction to register, have a look at http://www.really-learn-english.com/language-register.html
So to summarise this week’s tip – Writing is not the same as speaking on paper. To be a good writer, you will need to study and practise spelling, punctuation and register. The best advice I can give you is to read as much and as widely as possible in English, while considering these three factors.
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