Whether it is a professional need or just the desire to communicate well, learning to write better English can only improve your chances of doing better at work.
The easiest way to improve your English is to listen to good spoken English. Listening is a very powerful subconscious learning tool. You pick up patterns of thought from phrases and this will ultimately reflect in your writing. The BBC’s TV and radio channels are obviously good and freely available places to start.
If you haven’t cultivated your reading habits, now is the time to begin. Read all the classics of English literature in the twentieth century (Shakespeare may be delightful but he’s not going to help you write modern English any better). If you’re habituated to reading long novels in English, there’s a whole bunch of good, classic short story writers you can read. The habit of reading newspapers and magazines is on the wane. However, it would be great to inculcate the habit of reading publications daily.
Here’s a way to maximize your learning and perhaps even your entertainment. Read these stories aloud to yourself and listen carefully to what you say. Use all the punctuation marks in the writing to good effect. This will teach you how to use them intuitively. Furthermore, listening to what you read is a completely different activity for your brain from simply reading it. This will have an enormous and really quick impact on your writing skills.
For a lot of perfunctory business writing, you would do well just to keep on copying good examples. Keep a great email or business letter in front of you and type it out repeatedly. The parts of your body have memory too and this repetition will automate these words and phrases into your style of writing. This will also build structure into your writing naturally.
Use the teacher on your computer. Almost all good word processing software now come with an inbuilt spell check. Even better, many have a thesaurus. Use them frequently when you find yourself repeating words. Find alternatives to words you’re repeating to brighten up your communication.
There are several fun websites that integrate with your email or social website and play daily word games. Or download a word app on your smartphone. Even a simple ‘word for the day’ will do it. Always click on the sound icon on these dictionaries and word games to learn how to pronounce the new word correctly as well. This will give you the confidence to use it in writing as well. If you move this up to two words a day and teach your family what you’ve learned every day for 5 minutes, you’ll be writing well enough to be published in no time. Consistency is important. Play the game every day and use the word as soon as you’ve learned it.
Use the internet to browse lists of common mistakes people make while writing. Practice the use of articles, prepositions and tenses since these are where most people make their mistakes while writing.
Keep your sentences short and to the point. Here’s a good method to apply. Let’s say you have to write a letter on behalf of your boss. Structure it like a PowerPoint presentation. Keep the sentences short. After you’ve said what you wanted, cut out the unnecessary ideas. Now translate the points to proper sentences. Don’t put in anything more and read the result out to yourself. It should be just fine.
Languages come easily to human beings. We have been designed for them. A little regular effort will just go a long way towards achieving a fair degree of mastery over them.
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