12 home-based activities to improve your writing

As adults, many of us are learning English on our own, especially in these times of Covid 19. How can we continue to improve our language skills in a situation like this? Take a look at this step by step 12 point guide.

1. Understand a text by clearly dividing it into what is obvious to you and what is not. 

‘Obvious’ refers to sentences that do not require interpretation and that you understand immediately. Summarize these points in your own words.

For the part that is not immediately clear, check some words (but not all of them)            in an English dictionary and very often you can make an educated guess at the meaning of the others.

2. Annotate to help your learning.

Annotating the text you are reading is useful in helping to you to make sense of the text. Use a highlighter, ruler or sticky notes to deconstruct the text.

But annotating only becomes really useful when there’s a real purpose as to why you’re annotating…..so….

3. Focus on one particular element at a time.

Don’t become overwhelmed by the text. Just select one aspect i.e. new words or identifying different types of sentences.

For example, if your focus is on learning new vocabulary, then focus on highlighting the words you don’t know. If your focus is on style then highlight whole sentences.

Do not make a list of new words but organise them into a meaningful mind map of new vocabulary.

4. Understand pronouns.

Highlight words such as “one”, “ones” and “it”, “they”…. These words are used to avoid repeating a noun, a verb or a person noun. What do these words represent in the context of the text ?

In sections that seem unclear to you replace these pronouns with the nouns/verbs that they are referring to. This will help you to get a better “picture” of the text.

5. Don’t take a word at face value.

One of the complexities of the English language is that words can have several meanings (just think of the verbs to get, to have, to do, to take, to put), so always read the words in the context of narrative.

Watch out in particular for phrasal verbs, such as take off, take away, take in for example. The preposition can totally change the meaning of the verb. Be very careful about these verbs !

6. Use an English – English dictionary.

Do not translate expressions and style from your own language. For new words check their meaning in an English-English dictionary. There are English learner dictionaries available which will give you a clear explanation.

7. Write in long hand, it is a much better way to remember new vocabulary.

8. But don’t forget technology.

Use it to help you… not to translate (please don’t !) but use the spell and grammar check option on your computor. Be active and make a note of the mistakes you made and learn from them.

9. Challenge yourself.

When you start writing you will probably start off with short simple sentences… that’s ok… but then challenge yourself by merging the short sentences into longer ones with linking words (who, which, however, despite, whereas etc) . This will help you become more concise in your writing and make you use more varied vocabulary.

10. Focus on varying your vocabulary by always looking for synonyms. 

For example, big, huge, massive, significant

11. Read; look around for sentences you like.

Check out internet texts, books or newspaper articles — and see how you can improve your own writing. What words do you need to add or how do you need to change the sentence structure to improve your sentences? Consider how certain verbs and adjectives can express your thoughts and feelings more strongly or clearly than others.

12. Practice, Practice and Practice !


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