7 Ways to Improve English Writing Skills


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- Hello, everyone, and welcome back to English with Lucy.

Today, I've got a video that I've never really done before.

I've never really spoken about writing, as far as I know.

So, this one has been highly requested.

I know a lot of you are doing your IELTS exams,

so I have got seven top tips

that are going to help you improve your writing.

Quickly, before we get started, I'd just like to thank

the sponsor of today's video, Lingoda.

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It's actually highly relevant to this video,

because you really, ideally want somebody

to check through your writing.

So, in your private lessons on Lingoda,

you can mention that you'd like them

to look at your writing,

and that's what you can focus on for that lesson.

Lingoda has given all English with Lucy subscribers

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Let's get started with the lesson.

So, my first tip for improving your writing

is keep it simple.

Now, I know this seems really, really obvious,

but I always say to my students simple done accurately

is better than complicated done inaccurately.

In other words, it's better to keep things simple

and do it well, rather than over-complicate everything

and do it badly.

So, in English writing exams,

you want to show off your English,

but you want to show off your accurate English,

not all this English that you don't know

or haven't learnt yet.

Now, that leads me on to point number two.

In order to avoid making mistakes in your writing,

it's a really, really good idea

to have a collection of set phrases and keywords

that you can use in that exam.

So, my tip number two is prepare key phrases.

Now, you do have to be careful with this.

You don't want to rehearse what you're going to write,

but you do want to have a nice selection of things

that you could possible say if the time arises.

Now, especially on the IELTS exam,

and I know a lot of you are studying for this

but this really goes for any academic writing exam,

you want to have linking words and key phrases prepared.

Now I'm going to give you a list

with two examples for each point.

It doesn't cover everything that you need to know,

but if you study everything in the list,

you will be much, much more prepared

for your English writing exam.

So, pay attention, and if there's any point that you think,

"I really could expand on that,"

go and do your research, and prepare yourself.

You want to make sure that you have a variety

of different ways to ...

compare: "in the same way," "at the same time,"

contrast: "on the contrary," "however,"

give examples: "for instance," "to illustrate,"

give your opinion: "from my perspective,"

"from my point of view,"

generalise: "overall," "all things considered,"

to express certainty: "undoubtedly," "of course,"

to express partial agreement: "in a way," "to some extent,"

to show cause: "owing to," "due to,"

to show effect: "for this reason," "consequently,"

to mark time: "to begin with," "following this,"

to add information: "furthermore," "moreover,"

to express condition: "unless," "provided that,"

and to conclude: "in summary," "in short."

So that's just a very brief list

showing you exactly what you need to study

to be fully prepared for any English writing exam.

Now, point number three, and definitely,

definitely, definitely for academic writing,

i.e. English tests or university pieces,

do not use contractions.

Or is that don't use contractions?

So, cannot to can't,

do not to don't,

shall not to shan't,

I am to I'm, these are all examples of contractions,

and in your writing exams you want to avoid these.

I know that you guys really, really, really

want to keep your word count down

because you are restricted,

and you want to show off as much as you possibly can,

but I've got lots of tips for reducing your word count

coming up, so make sure that you do not feel tempted

to include contractions in your academic writing.

So, tip number four, reduce your word count.

Use as few words as possible.

Completely contradictory, because I've just told you

that you should not use contractions.

But I've got some really, really good mini tips

within this big tip to help you keep your word count down

and your English level up.

The first one is avoid these dead weight words

like "very," "so," "a lot," "really."

I have mentioned this before in a video,

but if you want to show off your English,

avoid these; they're pointless.

They are empty calories in English.

Replace them, instead, with a strong word.

So instead of saying "really happy,"

I would say, "I am elated."

Instead of saying "so scared," I would say "terrified."


So, by using strong words and avoiding these boring words,

you can reduce your word count by a fair bit.

Now, another way to really reduce your word count

but really improve the quality of your writing

is avoiding "there is" and "there are."

We want everything to be as clear as possible,

and sometimes "there is" and "there are"

can act as fillers; they add extra words to our sentences.

So, I'm going to give you an example

so you can see this and bear it in mind

next time you're doing an academic piece of writing.

Sentence one: there are many problems that we may encounter.

There are many problems that we may encounter.

Sentence two: We may encounter many problems.

We may encounter many problems.

The first sentence has eight words.

The second sentence has five words.

You have reduced your word count, and you have increased

the quality and the clarity of your writing.

So, make sure you apply this in your next exam.

Number five, read ...

the right documents.

Read the right pieces of writing.

I know many of you like to read in your spare time,

you like to do it for fun,

and a lot of you will read books in English,

which is amazing for improving you spelling

and improving your vocabulary as well.

But if you're trying to get a good score

in an academic writing exam,

you might not be reading the right kind of thing.

Look at the potential pieces of writing

that they're going to ask you to do.

Are they asking you to write article, reports, essays?

Maybe they're asking you to write all three.

If they are, read all three.

You need to go online or go to your library

and read articles, read reports,

read essays, read reviews.

Do everything you can to familiarise yourselves

with all the styles of writing.

Number six is one that you will have heard in school

so many times; but, I've worked as a teacher

for many, many years, and I get so frustrated

with silly, stupid mistakes

that I know that my students know.

They don't make these mistakes when they're speaking,

so why do they make them when they're writing?

So many times I've gone and I've prepared a lesson

because I've seen that there were some very clear mistakes

in my students' writing.

And I prepare a lesson to correct this mistake,

and when I go to teach it they say,

"But teacher, we already know this; this is baby stuff."

And it's because they don't check their work.

I have a clear example of this.

I used to work as a proofreader.

I used to check through documents

before they got sent off to publishers

to make sure that they were all correct,

that there was no spelling mistakes,

there were no grammar mistakes,

there was nothing, nothing wrong, they were all perfect.

And I was amazing at doing this.

I could get every single mistake.

Just by looking at a document from a distance

I could pick out those errors.

However, if you follow me on Instagram,

you will see that I make spelling and grammar mistakes

all the time.


Because I don't check; I don't check my writing.

I am a native English speaker, and I make spelling mistakes.

Granted, many of them are due to auto-correct on my phone,

which I am battling with.

But a lot of them are my fault.

And I don't check them, so I don't see them.

I know when you finish an exam, you're like,

"Ugh, I'm done; I want to move on to the next question,"

but you can avoid so many point deductions

just by checking through your work,

so please, please, please, make it your absolute priority.

I personally think it's much better if you write less

and check more; fewer words, higher accuracy.

And I know normally I promote fluency over accuracy,

but not in writing exams.

In writing exams, you want perfection.

Now, number seven is perhaps the most relevant

and the most difficult of all, especially if you're in

really remote parts of the world.

Number seven is write and get it checked.

Write and get it checked.

And unfortunately, the getting it checked thing

is a lot harder than it seems.

You want to write as much as possible,

checking it, of course.

It used to really annoy me when my students

would come in with five essays.

I was so happy that they'd done that,

but then I saw that they'd made loads and loads

of stupid mistakes, and I just thought,

"Ugh, why didn't you check it?

"I'm just correcting the same thing over and over again."

But write as much as you can, check it,

and then see if you can find somebody to correct it.

Now, I'm not saying find a complete stranger.

It's got to be in their interest to correct it as well.

I personally think it's very unlikely

that you're going to find a random teacher on the internet

that will be willing to check your writing for free.

However, there are lots of services and pen pal sites

if it's like a mutual exchange.

If you find somebody who wants to learn your language

and they can help you with your English,

then you can do that.

Or, like I mentioned, on services such as Lingoda,

and you can just have a straight hour of analysing writing

that you've already done and already sent them.

But I will say, especially to my younger viewers,

really, really, really be careful when you're contacting

people online to practise your English.

Make sure it's a trustworthy person, because there are

so many predators that want to talk to you,

especially young girls, to "practise their English,"

and it doesn't actually turn out to be a English practise.

It turns out to be something quite different,

so please, please, please be careful.

If you've got the funds, and if you've got the time,

get a proper teacher and pay them to help you.

Is there any way that you're going to be guaranteed

the proper skills, and the proper qualifications,

and also the proper incentive.

Why would a random stranger on the internet

want to help you with your writing?

What's in it for them?

Always think about that.

Right, guys, that's it for today's lesson.

Don't forget to check out Lingoda.

You can take advantage of this voucher code

by clicking on the link in the description

and applying it at checkout

when purchasing your first month subscription.

Don't forget to connect with me on all of my social media.

I've got my Facebook, my Instagram, and my Twitter.

And I'll se you soon for another lesson.


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