How to Improve Your English Writing Skills: 9 Fun and Interesting Ways
Has your written English reached a plateau?
If you want to improve your standard of writing, but you’re struggling to take it to new heights, we think we may have the answer. Whether you’re a native speaker or someone who’s learning English as a foreign language, your standard of written English will benefit enormously simply from you committing yourself to writing regularly in different styles. Writing in a variety of contexts is a great way to have fun with English at the same time as improving your writing capabilities, and it will make you more versatile as a writer. Away from the constraints of a formal academic environment, you’re free to have fun with your writing, and you’re able to develop and explore different written styles and challenges. What’s more, you never know when such skills will come in useful as you pursue your career.
It’s easy to fit in a range of writing activities around your schoolwork, so here are some ideas for ways in which you can write for fun in your spare time and get better at writing in the process.
1. Start a blog
With a number of websites offering free blog facilities, starting a blog is one of the easiest ways to write regularly and build up an audience for your words. Blogs essentially take two forms: you can either treat it like a diary, and write about what you’ve been up to; or you can dedicate your blog to a certain subject and blog about that. Blogs are particularly good if you prefer writing non-fiction to creative writing, and in addition to helping you to develop your written English skills, a blog will also help improve your employability, giving you something extra to put on your UCAS form or CV.
The first step to starting a blog is to decide what you want to write about. This should be something meaningful to you; if you’re into a particular sport, for example, you could devote your blog to that; if you’re passionate about politics, you could offer your political insights. The main thing is to write about what you’re interested in; your enthusiasm will come across to readers and you’ll find it easier both to build your audience and to write regular posts. You don’t have to be a web designer or developer to set up a blog. Here are some tips to help you get started:
– Platforms such as WordPress and Blogger offer free blogging facilities and templates, so that all you need to do is customise the colours and photos to suit you. Blogs from these sites have a pre-made, user-friendly admin area, so that adding a new post is very straightforward.
– Blog posts can be whatever length you want; anything between 400 – 2,000 words is perfectly acceptable.
– Include photos in your posts to make them more interesting.
– Link out to other sites on relevant issues; the people who run those sites will become aware of your blog and may become regular readers.
– Build up your audience by wording your titles in a search-friendly way – that means the title of your post should use phrases people might search for in Google; for example, “What’s the difference between X and Y?” or “How to earn money in your spare time”.
– Use Twitter and Facebook to share your new blog posts so that people get to know about your blog.
– Offer to write posts on other blogs that discuss the same subjects; that way, you’ll get your blog in front of the audiences of bigger blogs and you may gain readers.
Having an audience for your writing is an excellent motivation for sharpening up your English skills, and your blog will prove a satisfying platform for your regular writings as your readership starts to grow.
2. Write a diary
If you don’t want an audience, you could write a private diary instead. These can be incredibly therapeutic, helping you order your thoughts and get things off your chest. You can be totally honest in a diary, because nobody will see it but you, and they’re also a lovely record of what you’ve been up to that you’ll enjoy looking back on in years to come. A diary will get you used to using English to express your own thoughts clearly, something that’s essential in an academic context.
– Buy a nice, lined notebook that you’ll enjoy writing in, and a pen you feel comfortable writing with. If you’re worried about someone finding and reading it, you can get diaries with locks.
– Writing your diary by hand will give you valuable practise at handwriting, helping you build up the strength to write for long periods of time, and allowing you to practise writing neatly. Both these things will be very useful when it comes to your exams, particularly if you complete most of your normal essays and note-taking on a computer.
– Try to write everyday – make a habit of writing in your diary at a certain time of day, perhaps last thing in the evening.
3. Gain a penpal
It’s a sad fact that the art of letter-writing is slowly being lost with the advent of email and social media. But in some quarters it’s alive and well, and not just among the older generation, in the form of penpals. A penpal is someone you’ve never met before, with whom you exchange letters; you get to know them during the course of your correspondence. As well as giving you loads of practice at writing interesting letters, it’s also wonderful to get a friendly letter by old-fashioned ‘snail mail’ (if you opt to correspond in this way – you can still do so by email if you really want to), in an age in which the only things we seem to get in the post are bills or junk mail. Here are a few pointers to get you started:
– A number of websites exist to put you in touch with penpals, such as InterPals Penpals and PenPal World.
– Pick a pen friend who lives in another country – it’ll not only give you practice at writing letters, but it will also teach you about another culture in a way no tourist trip really can.
– Don’t put off replying – make sure you set aside time soon after you receive a letter to reply to it, otherwise you’ll quickly forget to reply and your poor penpal may be waiting weeks or months before you get round to writing.
– If you’re over 18, you could even write to a prisoner, which, according to this site, helps inmates “keep a positive attitude and focus on the future”.
4. Write for your school newsletter or student newspaper
Many schools have a school newsletter, and many universities have a student newspaper. Both offer the perfect opportunity to get some experience writing in a journalistic style, which requires the use of particular language as well as skills such as uncovering information and ensuring that your facts are verified. If you opt to write editorial-style articles, or opinion pieces, this will give you practice at writing in a more persuasive style and you’ll grow accustomed to using language to convince other people of a particular argument. In addition to its benefits to your written English skills, getting involved in the school newsletter or student newspaper will get your writing in front of other people, giving you all the more reason to take your writing to new heights.
5. Enter a writing competition
If you’re someone who enjoys the challenge of creative writing, have you thought about entering your writing into a competition? There are loads of writing competitions out there, covering many writing challenges including short stories and poetry. Writing competitions are particularly beneficial if you’re looking to study English Literature at university, as they’re something you can talk about on your personal statement, but they also benefit you in that they give you the chance to practise different forms of writing. Each different kind of writing presents its own challenges, and the knowledge that your work will be judged and compared with that of others will give you added motivation to write to the best of your abilities. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of some short story competitions you could enter, and here are some poetry competitions.
6. Write poetry
Poetry is English in its richest, tightest form, and writing it necessitates a great degree of skill. It also allows you to write from the heart and get a few things off your mind. Writing poetry isn’t just about rhyming (indeed, a poem doesn’t have to rhyme at all); it’s about imbuing your words with layers of meaning and communicating complex emotions and thoughts in a few carefully chosen words. As well as enriching your vocabulary, writing poetry yourself will deepen your appreciation of the techniques used by poets to convey their thoughts, making it a good thing to do if you’re studying A-level English. By writing a poem, you will be better able to understand the work of a poet you may be studying and the challenges they face in creating such a condensed and deeply meaningful form of English. There are lots of different kinds of poetry, and you’ll probably need to do some experimenting in order to develop your own poetic style.
7. Take part in National Novel Writing Month
If you’re really up for a challenge, you could have a go at taking part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). They say that everyone has a novel in them; if that’s the case, then this is certainly one speedy way to get it out. The aim is to write a 50,000 word novel within the space of a month, a mammoth task that will take all your determination and creativity – first of all to come up with a good plot, and then to see it through to completion.
It takes place in November and 465,000 people took part last year. It’s a great way to meet fellow writers via its forum, but above all, it’s a fantastic exercise in written English that will give you experience in character and plot development, writing evocative description and dialogue, and other skills necessary to writing fiction. All this will stand you in good stead if writing fiction is something you want to pursue for a career, but even if this isn’t your choice of career path, it’s still a terrific achievement and one that you can reference in your university personal statement and interviews.
You may not have thought of reviews as a writing outlet, but hear us out. There’s a big demand for user reviews in the age of the internet, with many people now checking reviews online for everything from products they’re about to buy to restaurants they’re thinking of dining at. The most useful reviews on sites such as Amazon are well-written and balanced, so here’s an easy and free way to give yourself some practice at writing useful pieces that weigh up the pros and cons of something. If you pick Amazon as your place to write reviews of products you’ve bought, you’ll have the motivation of trying to gain a good reviewer score when users mark your review as useful. Some review sites even allow you to earn money from your reviews, giving you the added bonus of some extra pocket money.
9. Travel writing
Our final nugget of writing inspiration is one you’re sure to enjoy: travel writing. Writing evocatively about places you’ve visited not only immortalises the memories of your travels; it’s great for improving your writing. Trying to summarise the essence of a place in words and do it justice can be quite a challenge, and finding the right words is a useful writing exercise. You don’t have to travel abroad to indulge in some travel writing; you could equally write about somewhere you’ve visited in your local area. When you travel anywhere, take a notepad and jot down your impressions of the place ready to transform into something longer and more thoughtful when you get home.
We hope you’ve found this article inspiring and that you enjoy getting to grips with different forms of written English. The more you write, the better your writing will get – so what are you waiting for?