October 9, 2019

How do you improve your (writing) English?

I like blogging and writing long pieces of content however I feel like my English as staled and that just "writing" is not enough to improve it.

I am not a native English speaker and I'd love to stop writing "clunky" sentences that just don't flow very well.

Any tips?

  1. 10

    I pay for Grammarly’s premium service and I’ve been speaking English my entire life. Don’t be too hard on yourself 🙂

    1. 3

      I don't know for you, but Grammarly released some kind of an updated recently and every time I leave it open it's like my laptop starts mining bitcoin :/

      1. 1

        I haven't had that problem. Are you using it in Chrome?

        1. 1

          Both "Chrome" and "Brave" (same engine though)

    2. 2

      Grammarly was a huge saver for me as well! So many stupid mistakes have been fixed.​

    3. 2

      Ahah thank you 😃

  2. 2

    I'm French and I write in English too. Here's what I do:

    • I speak English all day long at home (my girlfriend don't speak French) and at work (startups in Berlin).

    • I read only in English, mostly self-help / technical books / articles. It helps a lot.

    • I write. A lot. On my blog, mostly. You will make mistakes, but that's the point. I publish one article per month. First I write the structure, then I do a first writing, second writing, third writing (using Hemingway) and finally I had the images.

    • Proofread your articles if you can, and share them. Ask for feedbacks. You won't have many, but a few is better than nothing.

    My writing is far from perfect, but still people enjoy my articles and I've around 500 users on my blog daily.

    Finally, the book "The Element of Style" is definitely a must read.

    1. 1

      Hello Matthieu and congrats about your blog.

      Lots of content indeed.

      I did not know about HemingWay and "The Element of Style". Thank you very much.

      Do you use a particular channel to promote your blog post? 15000 monthly reader is a lot, 👏👏👏

      1. 1

        15000 is a lot? I'm not sure. I'm focusing more on building an audience, so people coming back is more interesting for me.

        I share mostly on Reddit / Twitter / Linkedin. Reddit brings me a lot of visit most of the time. It depends of the article's quality of course.

        When you share something, do it with humility, asking for feedback. Reddit users can be pretty harsh, but for me it's a chance to improve.

  3. 2

    Speaker of languages from 3 separate language families here! My advice is to focus on comprehensible input. If you're already reasonably fluent, then just focus on input. Read more and listen more.

    Feedback on your writing will help too, but aim for at least 95% input.

  4. 2

    Hey! Fellow blogger here 👋Personally, I try to read a lot of books with great writing - not just skimming the content, but analyzing how the grammar/sentence is structured as well.

    I also highly recommend the book 'The Elements of Style' to sharpen your writing :)

    Happy blogging!

    1. 1

      Thanks for the tips, il will try that.

    2. 1

      Thank you very much ! Will check this out.

  5. 2

    I've found that letting some time flow between your first draft and your editing goes a long way. Rediscovering a piece of writing brings the obvious clunky sentences to light.

    1. 1

      I totally agree! I used to churn out blog posts in 1-2 days but the quality is much better if I constantly revise it throughout the week (and lower stress) 🙂Once, a friend messaged me a certain paragraph wasn't clear, so now I proofread like 5 times.

      ps. @subLinear we have the same font in our blog posts! Twinning haha

      1. 1

        Karla lovers... assemble!

    2. 1

      Yeah, I think you are right. !

  6. 2

    You could try Grammarly. A lot of people don't like it because of privacy reasons, but you can isolate it to a specific browser/window and never install a local app.

    It highlights weird sentences and sometimes even shows how to correct them, not to mention weird/wrong words.

    Been using it for almost a year and will extend the subscription, it just gives so many insights for non-native English speakers: https://www.dropbox.com/s/c9iqx4ge72y8855/Screenshot from 2019-10-09 17-12-22.png?dl=0

    But its privacy policy is concerning, so be sure not to use it on a sensitive content to not share more than you want.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the tips, I already use Grammarly, but only the basic plan.

      The content I use Grammarly on is not really private as it would be used on blog post draft.

      I might give a try to the pro-version !

      1. 2

        You can try the pro version by checking your old blog posts. In that way, you can judge how much more value it provides to you and refund if not enough.

        1. 1

          That is a great idea! Thank you 👍

  7. 1

    Trial and error is important. Ray Bradbury says write everyday and read a lot. I can review something for you if you want. I had an idea for a startup around this - headset.software

  8. 1

    Grammarly has definitely been a big help for me too.

  9. 1

    I feel you, even I use English in everyday life including my job I still struggle with writing skills. Grammarly helps a lot, but it's great to improve the skills itself.

    I found constant writing and reading are the best for improving the level and it's a long way through.

  10. 1

    Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace

  11. 1

    English is a terrible language, I say this as someone who is a native speaker. My only piece of advice would be to read more English literature and fewer blogs or forums in English.

  12. 1

    I hired an editor. I asked her to review one of my long-form articles and provide feedback. She was a former professor so she took the time to add actionable comments explaining what I needed to change and why. I was then able to apply those strategies going forward. I worked with her on a few projects.

    I also work with a proofreader from time to time. She doesn't provide in-depth feedback but does make me aware of my most common errors (and costs less than a full editor). Grammarly is my final backup.

    If you aren't in a position to hire someone to mentor you, you might take a look at http://www.hemingwayapp.com/. From what I have been told, it is designed to address "clunky" as well as grammar issues.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the tool, did not know it, i will try it.

  13. 1

    Study and practice sentence correction questions from the GMAT to perfect your grammar.

    Storytelling is another craft altogether though.

  14. 1

    Hey Pierre!

    Your writing already reads great!

    I'd definitely recommend Grammarly. I use the free version myself for just about all my web writing (even as a native English spark with my own writing product).

    The other suggestion I have is to not just keep writing regularly but to also share publically as often as possible. It'll help build your confidence and sharpen your thinking. You're definitely better at it than you give yourself credit for. And it'll help you not put so much pressure on yourself if you know you're always going to be posting something else. Agree with the other comments here too that you should read a ton of what you love. Their style will influence you.

    I'm definitely biased, but I highly suggest giving Blurt a spin. It's set up to help you actually write. I recently discussed it here on IndieHackers. The solution isn't another writing app, but instead instituting consistency, discovering what you have to say that makes writing worth the effort, eliminating expectations, preventing self-editing, getting the imperfect words on the page, and then publishing publically regardless to help sharpen your writing over time.

    Blurt is here to help you do all that! :)

    Best of luck!

    1. 1

      Thank you for the thorough answer.

      You are right and I’ll begin to read more of who I like. I personally love Jack London.

      I will check out Blurt :)

  15. 1

    Read a lot of books by the great authors. I'm a big fan of David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon - they are so creative with their language that they'll inspire you and their creativity may well rub off.

    For non-mother-tongue speakers reading classics in your own language alongside their translations in English helps pick up on subtleties.

    In my opinion apps like Grammarly stifle creativity and lead to uniform, boring text. Paste any page from one of DWF's novels into Grammarly and it will fail on several counts.

    1. 1

      I did not know those author, what are your must read books from them ?

      1. 1

        DFW's most famous work is 'Infinite Jest' - it's a tome but well worth the effort. He also wrote a bunch essays and short stories: 'Consider The Lobster' is a good place to start.

        Pynchon's master work is the epic 'Gravity's Rainbow' - to get going with Pynchon I recommend 'Inherent Vice'.

        Enoy the journey!

        1. 2

          Great! Thank you for the tips.