How to Improve English Writing Skills

The English language has a very bad reputation for being difficult to learn. This is true of people learning English as a second language, but it can also be difficult for people when it is their first language. Here are some habits to avoid that should be avoided for anyone who wants to improve English writing skills

bad English writing habits
Image by Ordo


One of the reasons the English language is so difficult to learn is because there are so many bad habits that can easily be picked up. Many people that write use those bad habits, and that causes confusion for people who are trying to work on their skills and improve English writing.


One of the reasons for these bad habits is that the English language is derived from two different languages. Part of the language comes from England and northern Europe. This is referred to as Anglo-saxon. Generally speaking, these words are plain words.  They are the plain, simple words that are easily understood by everyone. These are words that succinctly describe the person, action, etc that they are supposed to describe.


The other language source of the English language comes from the Latin used in ancient Rome.  These are the words that tend to cause people the most problems when they’re learning and trying to improve English writing. The words are longer, have many more syllables and they make everything more difficult to read and understand because of their complexity.


The bad habits come into play because people in positions of some kind of authority tend to use Roman words.  When people have been exposed to those types of words, they tend to think if you write using those types of words, you will look “smarter”.


Whether it’s something from the government, instructions about your new cell phone contract, applying for insurance or even listening to the weatherman on television, the language they use isn’t usually the same as the language everyday by regular people.


The weatherman might say “we’re experiencing an increased probability of precipitation”, but what he really means is that it’s “likely to rain”.  The difference is the words that came from the Roman language vs the Anglo-saxon language.


Don’t fall into that trap just because that is what you see in other places. If you are new to the writing the English language, or just trying to improve English skills, you will have much more success if your focus is on the Anglo/saxon words.


Use Action Verbs

Another common problem for people who are trying to improve English writing is the use of passive vs. action verbs.  As a grammar reminder, an action verb is a single, specific action.  A passive verb is not as exact.


Example:  Susan saw what the boys did.

This is very specific.  The boys did something very specific, and Susan saw it.


The boys were seen by Susan.

This is much more passive.  The boys did something, but we don’t know what, or when. This sentence could refer to a single occurrence or it could be about something that happened every day.


In addition to the action verbs being more specific, they also read better because they are a single word.  Passive verbs tend to be 2-3 word phrases, which are more difficult to read.


Keep it Short

Above all else, when you’re trying to improve English writing skills, remember one key tip: keep it short.  That applies to everything.  Long sentences are more difficult to follow. You will be much better off if you keep them short.


Short words are even better than long words. This relates somewhat to the Roman vs. Anglo-saxon issue we mentioned above, but it is broader. In the following examples, both words would be appropriate to use, but when you’re writing, it’s better to use the shorter one.


  • Numerous – many
  • Individual – person, man or woman
  • Assistance – help

If you’re trying to improve English writing skills, remember to keep everything short.  It will be easier for you to write, and will be easier for whoever reads it!


Spell Check


Remember to always take the extra few seconds it takes to spell check anything you’ve written before you send it.  It doesn’t make sense to worry about using the language correctly if you don’t take the time to make sure you have everything spelled correctly, especially when using an online spell checker is so easy to do!