Every challenge is an opportunity to learn.
If writing an essay sounds a little bit scary, just think of it as a chance to improve your writing skills.
Nobody expects your first essay to be perfect. Nor your second, nor your third…
Not even your fiftieth (50th)!
Just make sure you learn something new every time you write an essay, and you will grow your abilities.
Plus, you don’t have to do it alone.
We’re going to help you out with ten tips for writing better essays while you’re learning English.
10 Simple Tips for Writing Essays in English
1. Create a Word Bank
This is an interesting approach to writing your essay. First, choose a topic and write a thesis. A thesis is the main argument of your essay. For instance, if your topic is reading, your thesis might be “Reading makes you smarter.”
Once you have a thesis, think about your main topic and find words that relate to it in different ways. Then, branch out (broaden, diversify) your list to words that aren’t as closely related to your main topic.
For the example above, your primary list might include words like “books,” “reading” and “intelligent.” Your other “branched out” list might include “Harry Potter,” “reading by a fire” or “test scores.”
This process will help expand your vocabulary over time. Using these words when you write will also make your essay more vibrant (energetic, colorful).
2. Act Like a Reporter
When you are first assigned the topic, go ahead and really explore the possible options for your thesis. Ask questions. Get curious. The more questions you ask before you start writing, the more information you will have to use in the essay.
A strong essay is one that covers a lot of content in a succinct (short, to-the-point) way. This process of acting like a reporter will give you valuable quotes, resources and vocabulary to begin the writing process.
For instance, if you’re writing about a new diet plan, you might ask questions like, “Who is the best candidate for this diet plan?,” “How can someone get started?” and “What is the hardest part of this plan?”
3. Create Topic Sentences
A topic sentence is the first sentence in a paragraph, and it summarizes the rest of the paragraph. You can create them first to help you stay on track when writing your essay.
For the thesis “Reading makes you smarter,” one paragraph’s topic sentence might be, “Newspapers make you more aware of current events.” Another paragraph’s topic sentence could be, “Reading plays and classic literature will make you more cultured.”
If you’re writing about the three main issues facing writers today, you could write three full sentences that each address one main issue. Set these aside. Then, when you start writing the essay, refer to your topic sentences to create a solid structure that begins at point A and ends at point C.
4. Argue Both Sides
If you have to write a longer or more complex essay, it might help to outline both sides of the argument before you start writing. When you write the essay, you will need to choose one side to focus on. But as you prepare, having a side-by-side list of points can be helpful in developing your thesis.
Also, by arguing for the opposite side of your opinion, you will learn which points you need to better address in your essay. You will learn more about the topic, and you will gain more vocabulary words to enrich the essay.
As an example, you might be writing an essay arguing that people should drink less coffee. To argue both sides, you’ll need to consider the opposite side: the benefits of coffee. How will people quit if they are addicted? What about the antioxidants in coffee? Aren’t those good for you? Really explore the entire concept (both sides of the argument) before you write.
5. Read Backwards
Proper grammar is difficult for even the most fluent English speakers. Because you are learning English, you actually have an advantage. Many native speakers learned improper grammar from the start. It’s difficult to undo the damage caused by a lifetime of writing improperly.
As you learn the English language, make a serious effort to practice your grammar and sentence structure. One way to spot improper grammar in your own writing is to read each sentence backwards (start with the last word and end with the first). This way, you won’t be fooled by how the words sound when you read them in your head.
Is everything in the correct tense (past, present, future, etc.)? If you’re writing about plurals, are the possessive nouns plural? Are the apostrophes in the right places? Does every sentence end with a punctuation mark (period, question mark, exclamation point)? Reading the text backwards make you focus on the rules of grammar instead of the flow of the sentence.
6. Use an Online Thesaurus and a Dictionary
You might have learned a large number of fancy words when studying for an entrance exam. But before you start using them in academic essays, be very sure you know what they mean in the context of your essay. This is where the dictionary can come in handy.
A thesaurus is another valuable tool when writing an essay. A thesaurus tells you synonyms, or words that have the same or a similar meaning to the word you look up. It’s important because it can add some volume to your essay and increase the impact of your words.
For example, if you’re writing about cooking, the words “stir” and “add” might come up a lot. This repetition is boring for a reader.
So instead of constantly saying, “Add the tomato” and “add the eggs,” a thesaurus will teach you to say things like “whisk in the eggs” or “gently fold in the tomatoes.” See? It sounds a lot better and adds interest to your essay.Visual Thesaurus is a resource that works just like a regular thesaurus, but it also shows you the connections between the words. For example, if you type in the word “stir,” you’ll immediately see a whole circle of other words connected to “stir” with lines. From there, you can click on any of the words in the circle (like “move,” in this case) and then see all the words related to that word. This helps you find and learn new words quickly, and it’s also fun!
7. Combine and Separate Sentences
Once the essay is written, go back through the writing to find any sentences that seem too long or wordy. Break these into two or more sentences.
For example, the following sentence is too long, which makes it unclear:
If you want to write in another language, you need to practice writing in creative ways, like writing on a blog, writing fun poems or texting a friend who speaks the language you’re learning every day.
Instead, you could write it as two clearer sentences (with less repetition of the word “writing”):
If you want to write in another language, you need to practice in creative ways every day. For example, you could start a blog, create fun poems or text a friend.
Do the opposite with sentences you find too short.
Also, look for sentences that are very closely related to one another. If two sentences seem like the thoughts are connected, you can combine them with a semicolon ( ; ).
For example, the following sentences are very closely related:
Learning to write in another language can be really difficult, especially when you’re first getting started. That’s why it helps to practice every day.
That’s why you could write it this way:
Learning to write in another language can be really difficult, especially when you’re first getting started; daily practice is helpful.
8. Have a Native English Speaker Edit Your Essay
Meet up with a friend who is fluent in English (or, at least, more fluent than you). This friend can edit your essay and point out any repetitive errors.
If they find mistakes that you make often, you will be able to watch more closely for that error as you write future essays. This friend will also be able to point out grammatical or spelling errors that you might have missed.
If you don’t have any friends who are fluent in English, you can use lang-8.com. Lang-8 is a free site where native English speakers will correct your writing. In exchange, you correct the writing of someone learning your native language.
9. Review the Whole Essay with Your Friend, Then Rewrite It
Once you and your friend have both reviewed your essay and marked any mistakes, rewrite the whole thing. This step is important. Just noting that you made some mistakes will not help you learn how to avoid them in the future.
By rewriting the essay with the corrections in mind, you will teach yourself how to write those sections properly. You will create a memory of using proper grammar or spelling a word correctly. So, you will be more likely to write it correctly next time.
10. Use Online Apps
Lastly, there are some fantastic online resources that can help improve your writing. For instance, Hemingway Editor can review your document to find any confusing or wordy sentences. You can rewrite these to make them easier to understand.
You could also head over to Essay Punch to find resources, tools and support that can help improve your writing skills. Grammar Book is a great resource for practicing proper grammar and spelling.
The advice in this post is mainly for improving your essay writing over time. However, if you want a more professional opinion for an important essay, you can also use Essay Edge. Essay Edge is an online essay editing resource that helps with academic and admissions essays. If you’re applying to a school or are writing an important paper, you may want to consider their services to make sure your essay is the best it can be.
Learning a new language is certainly an ambitious (challenging) task. There are so many small details to learn, and the process takes a lot of time and commitment. But with practice and study, you will improve.
It takes even more effort to become a strong writer in a new language, but these tips will help you get started.
Hopefully, you were able to find one or two tips that you believe will help you improve your essay writing abilities. Over time, try to use all of these strategies (or at least more than one) in your writing routine. Good luck!
Robert Morris is an essay writer from custom writing service NinjaEssays. He lives in NYC and loves online tutoring.
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Improving your language skills takes time and practice. Practice is also important not only to improve, but to maintain your existing skills. There are many ways that you can practice, so explore some methods to find what works for you.
How to use this checklist
It’s best to embed strategies for improving your English into your everyday activities. Choose at least three suggestions from the list below and see if you can implement them on a daily basis. Try them for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference. If one strategy doesn’t feel like it’s helping, or you find you can’t practice it, select a different one.
|Strategy||Worth a try?|
|1. Make friends with native speakers of English.|
|2. Start a phrase book to record new vocabulary. Make it a rule to practise new words each day - for example, “today I will find an opportunity to say ‘evidently’.”|
|3. Arrange to share accommodation with local students or with an English-speaking family.|
|4. Don’t confine your practice to locals or native speakers - you can practice with people from any language background, including your own. Make it a rule that you’ll spend at least some time chatting in English. Correct each other and practice explaining new words or discussing what you don’t understand.|
|5. If you live with students of the same language background, have an ‘English hour’ each night to practice your language skills. For that hour, only speak to each other in English - practice articulating your thoughts and try out some new vocabulary. A gold coin penalty for not speaking in English applies. Use any money you collect to buy pizza or donate to an agreed charity.|
|6. Read aloud – especially from newspapers, magazines and novels – for 10 minutes a day!|
|7. Embrace all forms of technology to help you practice. There are a host of Apps, websites, films and videos that can help you immerse yourself in English. Smartphones and iPads give you access to a range of materials at anytime and (almost) anywhere - you can practice while waiting for the bus or just hanging out at home.|
|8. Watch English language movies. If you watch DVDs, select English subtitles to help you follow what is being said.|
|9. Watch Australian-made TV shows to help familiarise yourself with Australian accents. Find out what local students watch and do the same, then you can chat about the programs with them and get in some conversation practice as well.|
|10. Find internet sites that have vocabulary, grammar, and speaking resources – for example, English for Uni www.adelaide.edu.au/english-for-uni|
|11. Attempt crossword puzzles and word games in daily newspapers/APPS (Don’t worry if you find them difficult - most native speakers can’t complete them either).|
|12. Sing along to some favourite songs on radio, Rage etc – in English of course!|
|13. Try some APPs on English language - they are a great way to get vocab, grammar and culture tips.|
|14. Use communications technology in English. Try chatting with a friend in English via skype or messaging them in English.|
|15. Search YouTube for some English language and pronunciation resources.|
|16. Pursue an interest - it can be sporting, social, crafty, creative. Join a club or society such as those run by ARC, or investigate community colleges and local community clubs.|
|17. Throw away that translation dictionary and buy a good ENGLISH LANGUAGE Dictionary (Collins Cobuild) and consider buying a Collocations dictionary – you will use both extensively for many years!|
|18. Ask a native speaker friend to tell you when you get a word wrong, or when they do not understand you. If they use a word or phrase that you don’t understand, ask them to explain.|
|19. Attend Learning Centre workshops on speaking skills (conversation, oral presentations etc) |
|20. Make it a rule to speak up in each class or meeting at least once. For example, you could ask a question, agree with someone, give an opinion etc. Your tutor/ supervisor will love you for trying!|
|21. Outside your classes, be the first to say hello to classmates when you see them around uni, even if you do not know their names.|
|22. Search Australian media websites like ABC, SBS, or BTN for transcripts and audio files of news & current affairs topics.|
|23. Buy a newspaper each morning and listen (online or via radio) and read along with Radio 2RPH (|
http://www.2rph.org.au). Radio 2RPH is a radio station for the blind/ NESB that reads daily newspapers and magazines. Daily program guide is online.
|24. When doing a group project or assignment, offer to be group leader or take minutes (TIP: read your minutes back so the group can clarify your meaning and understanding).|
|25. Join a language / conversation group at UNSW. There are usually a number offered by Student Development International or The Learning Centre.|
|26. Offer to tutor junior students in a subject that you know well. Advertise on school/ faculty noticeboards.|
|27. Talk to the people around you. Ask people about their culture and values and share your culture’s rituals and values; eg. favourite foods, national holidays, weddings and funerals - what really goes on, education systems, names and their meanings, how and when to swear. Be non-judgemental, curious and friendly and people will respond.|
|28. Get uni credits and improve your English at the same time by choosing electives that include opportunities to speak and listen, such as discussions, group work and oral presentations.|
Want to know more?
For more hints and tips, visit The Learning Centre's Facebook page during semester. If you have a favourite strategy that helps you improve your English language, please post it on our wall.