15 votes

How can non-native speakers improve their english writing skills?

I'm not a native speaker, but from browsing reddit, understand 95% of what I read / hear. I also watch TV Shows exclusively in english. However, when i write a comment or something in english, it always feels like it doesn't really "flow".

How can i, or other non-native speakers improve our writing skills?

19 comments

  1. [3]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I think you're pretty much doing it already. Social media is a great tool for this sort of thing as you can practice reading and writing all in one place and often get immediate feedback...

    I think you're pretty much doing it already. Social media is a great tool for this sort of thing as you can practice reading and writing all in one place and often get immediate feedback (sometimes constructive, sometimes not) in the process. I know quite a few non-native English speakers who learned English exclusively from TV + online interactions and, in many cases, wouldn't have known otherwise were it not for their slight accents when I finally heard them speak. It just requires practice to get there.

    p.s. You could also mark your comments here and other places with "non-native speaker, advice appreciated" or something similar and I imagine a lot of people would be willing to help you with it.

    11 votes
    1. [2]
      Mathias
      Link Parent
      Social media can really be helpful. Oftentimes when I'm writing a comment or a post, i just delete it because I think i wrote it really shitty, and I'll get hated on or something lol. Even though...

      Social media can really be helpful. Oftentimes when I'm writing a comment or a post, i just delete it because I think i wrote it really shitty, and I'll get hated on or something lol. Even though i know that's not the case 90% of the time.

      2 votes
      1. sunblasts
        Link Parent
        Honestly, you're better than quite a few native speakers I know. The one major error I've seen in your posts in this thread is that sometimes you don't capitalize "I", but obviously that's not a...

        Honestly, you're better than quite a few native speakers I know. The one major error I've seen in your posts in this thread is that sometimes you don't capitalize "I", but obviously that's not a "major" error at all: it's inconsequential and has no bearing on how well your sentences flow.

        Anyway, I think that browsing English social media and watching shows in English is doing you good. And don't delete comments you think are awkward! Practice is important, and if you add a note on "awkward" comments that says you're a non-native speaker and asks for advice, people will often be happy to help. Get that constructive feedback. :)

        6 votes
  2. [13]
    iiv
    Link
    I think the most important thing is practice. And something that've helped me is to read a lot of books. Reddit, and other websites, are good for learning, but it's often on the simpler side of...

    I think the most important thing is practice. And something that've helped me is to read a lot of books. Reddit, and other websites, are good for learning, but it's often on the simpler side of the scale.

    Another difference between the web and books is that books are generally longer. On Reddit you will read hundreds of comments of different qualities, while if you read a book it will all be in the same style and quality.

    Also, try writing longer texts. There is more room for error, and therefore more room for learning.

    So, in the spirit of my comment: I'd like it if native speakers could correct things that are written awkwardly or incorrect spelling and grammar in this comment. (I'm Swedish)

    Thanks!

    6 votes
    1. [7]
      arghdos
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      "that've" expands to "that have" which shouldn't be plural (thanks /u/Mumberthrax) here. You want "that's", which is "that has" edit: Also, starting a sentence with "And" is generally taught as a...

      And something that've

      "that've" expands to "that have" which shouldn't be plural (thanks /u/Mumberthrax) here. You want "that's", which is "that has"

      edit: Also, starting a sentence with "And" is generally taught as a bad idea (but isn't always). Here'd I'd say you don't even need it:

      I think the most important thing is practice, something that's helped me is to read a lot of books.

      is fine

      5 votes
      1. [6]
        iiv
        Link Parent
        Thank you! I always have a hard time deciding between "have" and "has".

        Thank you! I always have a hard time deciding between "have" and "has".

        5 votes
        1. [2]
          crius
          Link Parent
          I've been taught that "has" is reserved for third person singular, "he" or "she". Everything else use "have". Also, contracted form is fine if the sentence "flows" right, it's something you become...

          I've been taught that "has" is reserved for third person singular, "he" or "she". Everything else use "have".

          Also, contracted form is fine if the sentence "flows" right, it's something you become accustomed to with practice. It's not wrong to write "you have a cat" nor "you've a cat" it just depend on how you build the sentence and your writing style.

          However I'm not a native english speaker either (from italy here, we grow up quite "shielded from english), I learned from videogames, series subtitled, online community and finally books, after moving in london :)

          2 votes
          1. BuckeyeSundae
            Link Parent
            There is also the English subjunctive that takes have in many cases ("he would have verbed", but be careful if it were true without having to have "have"), as well as the future perfect (which...

            There is also the English subjunctive that takes have in many cases ("he would have verbed", but be careful if it were true without having to have "have"), as well as the future perfect (which will have been my favorite tense).

            Then there is the pluperfect case which had made an ass out of the past long before any of these other has beens came around (a "had" use case).

        2. [3]
          Mumberthrax
          Link Parent
          in this context, I'd use "have" if i were talking about multiple things instead of a single thing. e.g. "some things that have helped me"

          in this context, I'd use "have" if i were talking about multiple things instead of a single thing. e.g. "some things that have helped me"

          1 vote
          1. [2]
            arghdos
            Link Parent
            Isn't English fun? :p

            Isn't English fun? :p

            1 vote
            1. Mumberthrax
              Link Parent
              It's probably objectively the greatest spoken language on the planet. :P Next to Icelandic, maybe. ;)

              It's probably objectively the greatest spoken language on the planet. :P

              Next to Icelandic, maybe. ;)

              1 vote
    2. [3]
      trazac
      Link Parent
      This would be marked with an 'awk' for awkwardness. Scales don't have complex and simple sides. You could say it's lighter to fit your scale metaphor, or maybe just say the language is more...

      simpler side of the scale

      This would be marked with an 'awk' for awkwardness. Scales don't have complex and simple sides. You could say it's lighter to fit your scale metaphor, or maybe just say the language is more common. You might be able to say there is a sliding scale of language quality and basic comments slide to the lower end. Just my personal thoughts.

      Also, try writing longer texts.

      I think what you're trying to say is to 'write more' or 'be more verbose.' Text in English can refer to books and the plural normally means books. More often now it refers to SMS messages, but either way your word choice comes off strange.

      There is more room for error, and therefore more room for learning.

      This might be more stylistic thing, but you don't need the comma in this sentence. The comma separates two independent clauses but you only have one.

      In the spirit of the top level comment I just wrote, most people wouldn't even notice most of the 'errors' I've pointed out. They might just assume you are a native English writer with strange word choice.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        iiv
        Link Parent
        Thanks! What I meant was to write not just more things, but longer things. So instead of a bunch of short comments here and there, write fewer but longer comments (or stories, or articles, or...

        Thanks!

        I think what you're trying to say is to 'write more.' Text in English can refer to books, and that's what 'texts' generally means. Texts = books.

        What I meant was to write not just more things, but longer things. So instead of a bunch of short comments here and there, write fewer but longer comments (or stories, or articles, or whatever).

        3 votes
        1. trazac
          Link Parent
          Yeah, I edited my comment to clarify what I meant. I used the word verbose which is the correct word to describe what you mean.

          Yeah, I edited my comment to clarify what I meant. I used the word verbose which is the correct word to describe what you mean.

    3. Mathias
      Link Parent
      I should really start reading books more often, lol. I even got an english one frlm a reddit secret santa exchange. I really try to write longer texts, but i just kind of run out of ideas of what...

      I should really start reading books more often, lol. I even got an english one frlm a reddit secret santa exchange.

      I really try to write longer texts, but i just kind of run out of ideas of what to say lol. That's the case in real life too, sometimes, but less than online.

      1 vote
    4. RobotRaven
      Link Parent
      Adding the preposition "with" to the sentence ("or with incorrect spelling") would flow better. A good way to check this in a list is to remove the other options (e.g. "things that are written...

      things that are written awkwardly or incorrect spelling and grammar

      Adding the preposition "with" to the sentence ("or with incorrect spelling") would flow better. A good way to check this in a list is to remove the other options (e.g. "things that are written incorrect spelling and grammar" vs "things that are written with incorrect spelling and grammar").

      1 vote
  3. trazac
    Link
    For what it's worth, even native speakers don't write very well. The issue with Reddit (and Tildes for that matter) is that you're seeing people who know how to write and have a per-disposition to...

    For what it's worth, even native speakers don't write very well. The issue with Reddit (and Tildes for that matter) is that you're seeing people who know how to write and have a per-disposition to type up a comment. Most English speakers don't write much, which probably isn't very dissimilar from other languages. Most of my family members struggle to write a good sentence.

    The only way you're going to be able to really improve your English beyond where it is now is to either take a writing class in English or have experienced writers read your writing. I find myself to be a decent writer, but I have a hard time giving out good writing advice.

    A great resource for improving your writing on your own is a book called Rhetorical Grammar. It does a good job of teaching the flow of writing in English and how it can affect your message.

    3 votes
  4. meristele
    Link
    I recommend practicing regularly in a discord channel with a variety of native speakers. Other platforms that have both voice and text at the same time. Saying it out loud can often help pinpoint...

    I recommend practicing regularly in a discord channel with a variety of native speakers. Other platforms that have both voice and text at the same time. Saying it out loud can often help pinpoint problem areas.

    Set a subject at the beginning of each practice session, like writing for job interviews. Casual slang, editorials, opinion pieces, factual reporting...all of these have slightly different vocabularies and pacing.

    And have fun. Laugh a lot!

    3 votes
  5. tegla
    Link
    Write a lot, read a lot. Practice. Same goes for any other skill.

    Write a lot, read a lot. Practice.

    Same goes for any other skill.