English is taught in most schools around the world, either primary or secondary, or both. Focus areas may vary between countries — grammar, writing skills, conversation — but you can generally assume it will be at a low level. And low can often mean boring for students.

In the ideal world, students would be engaged by teaching methods that allowed them to learn English naturally, in a way that mimics real life. The reality is, most lessons involve rote-learning and repetition of conjugations and unnatural expressions.

What can you do if you want to improve your English with a focus on your writing skills?

Study the Types of Writing in English-Language Newspapers

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. Even when you only have a basic level of English, reading a newspaper is a great way to learn English. Reading newspapers can be an effective, and easy, way of supplementing the content in your ESL classes, and improving your writing skills.

How will it help?

In a newspaper, you will find multiple writing styles, from journalistic, persuasive and business writing to creative writing. Newspapers are written for a native English speaking audience, so the vocabulary will be current and rich, sentence structure will be varied and you will find a wide range of natural English expressions used in context. Comprehending what is written may be challenging, but you might as well try — especially if you are serious about learning to write well.

Even people studying English for beginners can benefit from reading a newspaper.
Keep up to date with local news and improve your English at the same time. (Source: Ultimate Food App)

You don't need to start straight away with heavy business or political news, there are plenty of newspapers with simpler stories. In fact, there are a number of newspapers and magazines designed for English learners, with simplified news, more basic writing, or even bilingual articles.

It is a good idea to look for lighter topics at first, to allow you to become accustomed to different writing styles. Read and reread articles you are interested in — try celebrity gossip magazines, sports articles, lifestyle magazines or movie/book reviews. The important thing is readability — you want to gain confidence with simpler vocabulary and less complex paragraph structure before you move on to more complex stories.

A hard copy is always nice to read, but you can find most newspapers and magazine features online. There is no limit to the varied types of English writing, subjects and stories you will have access to and with a little bit of investigation on your part, this is a great way to use online resources to learn English.

Learn English by Reading Novels

You probably didn't enjoy reading the texts your teacher chose when you were studying English at school — but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy reading English-language books you have chosen. Pick a genre you love, don't rush, and immerse yourself in another world, all while improving your knowledge of English and your writing skills.

How can you improve your writing skills just by reading a book in English?

There is so much more to reading than just the story. Immersing yourself in a well-written book is a fabulous way to pick up all sorts of writing tips and tricks — English spelling and grammar, use of punctuation, sentence structure, not to mention the new vocabulary and expressions you'll find.

Don't worry if you're only at an English for beginners level either. A quick search will show you there are numerous bilingual books available. Or, try reading a book you have already read. Doing this will allow you to concentrate on the language because you won't have to focus on the storyline.

The magical world of language and books is rarely discovered during school-based English lessons. JK Rowling opened up this world in a huge way with Harry Potter — it was a worldwide phenomenon that inspired a whole new love of reading in multiple generations. In fact, many people couldn't wait for the translations to be published and set about reading the next book in the series in English. What a fabulous way to learn!

Check out this English speaking course.

Improve your English by Watching Movies and TV series

Who doesn't enjoy sitting back for a few hours to watch an entertaining movie or TV show? Even better if you can learn and improve your English while you're having fun! Platforms like YouTube streaming and Netflix can bring almost any show you desire right to you.

English-language TV series and movies are available anywhere, so it is easy to find something you can both enjoy and improve your skills with. Watch a show or movie you're familiar with, without any subtitles, or find versions with subtitles in your language to support your understanding. Don't bother with the dubbed versions though — how will they help your English?

Over time, you'll discover your pronunciation and comprehension will improve, and you might even want to try reading subtitles in English so you can see word choice and sentence structure in action.

Use Linking Words to take your English Writing to the Next Level

In written English, it is important to be able to clearly and succinctly convey your thoughts using the right words. 

Good writing uses a mix of sentence structures. There are simple sentences. Simple sentences are okay but you should also try to write more complex sentences, which involve the use of English linking words, in order to make your writing sound more interesting.

Written English tends to be more formal than spoken English. You need to be more aware of grammar rules, stay away from slang words and jargon and include richer vocabulary, phrases and structures.

English writing uses a lot of linking words.
Correctly placed linking words are essential in written English. (Source: Teen Problem)

You need to more than good communication skills to start writing articles for The Guardian or  The Australian. Most important is fluency in spoken English and also a sound command of general reading and writing skills. Both of these include an active understanding of linking words.

If you want to be considered fluent, you have to know and use these words. Useful linking words include: because, whereas, once, therefore, in addition to ... and so on.

You will likely have covered these in your English classes — so pull out your notes and start revising.

Before long, your memory will kick in and the words will flow again. You might want to give yourself a short English quiz, testing your written communication, just to be sure.

Move Beyond that 'English For Beginners' Level by Expanding your Vocabulary

Using words and expressions you are confident with is less intimidating, but it won't help improve your English writing. It also means your writing won't be very interesting to read. Variety is key to keeping readers hooked.

What should you do? The obvious answer is to dedicate time to add increasing your English vocabulary. The more words you know, the better your written communication will be.

Expand your English vocabulary if you want to improve.
A broad vocabulary gives you tools for interesting communication. (Source: Haiku Deck)

One very effective way to do this is to make yourself a list of ten or so new words and practice them. You choose how many words to add to your list — just make sure you practice them every day. You don't need to set aside a big block of time for this either. Practice your words while you're waiting for the bus or making your lunch.

The other thing you should do is revise! Every day, go over vocabulary from previous days, particularly anything you found tricky. The more you practice, the more you'll remember.

These two tasks are not difficult or time-consuming, and your vocabulary is guaranteed to improve.

Make Yourself Write in English

It's so much easier and less stressful to make yourself do something if you know it's for your benefit. Whether improving your writing skills is a personal or professional goal, if it's important to you, you'll find ways to make it happen. Check out superprof.com.au for a few ideas to get you started.

Getting in there and having a go is the only way you're going to learn. Be a hard taskmaster and make yourself write in English.

English writing and speaking are completely different skill sets. Writing needs to be more concise, grammatically and structurally correct and coherent.

It may seem daunting, but so is any new skill the first time you try. The most important thing is to grab your pen, or open up your laptop, and begin writing.

Making errors is the best way to learn — and you will make mistakes with your writing. You might discover you need help with your vocabulary or you have an abundance of grammatical errors or your linking words are wrong — but you'll never know this until you give it a go.

Use Dictionaries to Get on Top of your Spelling

Everyone relies too much on auto-correct, even native speakers. People simply can't spell because they don't need to.

Sure, schools teach spelling, but once we graduate, auto-correct takes over and we get lazy. The thing is, potential employers will look at your spelling when you're applying for a job. If the only difference between you and another applicant is spelling — who do you think will get the job?

What English dictionary is the best one for me?
Dictionaries seem to be a dying breed, but they remain a valuable tool when you're learning English. (Source: Found Poetry Review)

The most important thing to do when you're working on improving your writing in English is to learn how to spell every new word you're planning to use. How do you do this? Scroll back up to the top of this article — immersing yourself in the written word, by reading newspapers, books, watching English movies with subtitles and websites, is the best way to improve your spelling.

In addition, don't forget to get yourself a great dictionary. Try online dictionaries, or you might find a bilingual dictionary is what you need.

Remember to test yourself. Try some fun quizzes and questionnaires if you only want something informal. Alternatively, you may wish to get yourself a formal grading with official exams, like IELTS or TOEFL, to make sure you really understand the writing process.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.