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Cover image for How to Improve Writing Skills as a Non-Native Speaker

How to Improve Writing Skills as a Non-Native Speaker

ilonacodes profile image Ilona Dee Codes ・4 min read

Let me begin by saying, that writing a new post either on technical or soft skill topics is always a challenge for me.

Why? Because I am not a native English speaker.

Looking back at the past few years, I used to be an awful writer, mainly because I have only learned English as a second language at school.

Yes, my English writing was not the best, but the desire to blog in English was huge.

If you ever asked me about the main thing that contributed to my online progress, I would not hesitate a second to say that it was my ability to write well in English.

And it took around two years of consistent work to reach “not that bad” style of writing.

I have come a long way, right?

Of course, practice is everything, you probably know it. Personally, for me, it’s impossible to learn something without implementing it in my life.

I can read English rules with examples hundred of times, however, only when I complete an actual post, the grammar will stick in my head.

At the beginning of my blogging journey, I have spent around 4-5 hours to re-read, edit and confirm the end version of the post before publishing it.

To put things into perspective, here are my tips for improving your writing skills, if you are a non-native speaker and struggling with it:

1. Read as much as possible

Especially in the styles, you want to emulate, whether it’s general writing, news or blogs, etc.

I believe that one of the best ways to perfect writing skills and grammar is to read. And read a lot.

2. Spend time re-reading and editing

Even many native speakers don’t do that, but we, non-native, can improve our writing a lot with a read-over.

The most important thing is the end result in this case.

The more time we spend on that today, the less time we spend on that tomorrow.

3. Ask native speakers for help

Don’t hesitate to do that and get them to underline and explain any mistakes or odd-sounding phrases you are using.

Perhaps, the other person can be interested to learn your native language or in teaching people in general.

Learning foreign languages is hype nowadays, and I firmly believe that it’s possible to conquer a new language up to a fluent level in 1-2 years.

Everything depends on you, and only you!

4. Learn the grammar rules of the native language

When I started learning foreign languages, I faced the big problem - I was not that strong in the morphology of my native language!

And it’s crap! Especially, if you are trying to learn a foreign language.

Any language has logical structure. To see its ‘logic’ you have to understand morphology analysis at least to build the sentences properly and conjugate words correctly.

As a result, it will simplify the foreign language learning process.

5. Follow a writing template

Try to collect or keep notes of the writing templates the most used while doing a new post.

This approach will definitely help you increase the quality of your article instantly and decrease the time spending on searching appropriate lead-in words for your post.

6. Grammar through Grammarly (not sponsored)

Grammarly is a helpful tool that can help you avoid typos when writing online.

I use the program in my everyday writing for over a year or more.

It helps find comma errors with ease, detect and correct repetitive words, and highlight the missing details during the writing. Especially useful for students who do academic writing - just choose the right mode for that.

Conclusion

Remember, that no one was born a professional and no one is perfect.

Believe in yourself and believe that one day you will be what you wish.

Don’t let fear consume you and give up.

In the beginning, probably, you will not be that good, so don’t pay attention at that point. Failure is a part of the process of success.

Don’t compare your writing with someone else. Find your own style, write it naturally and do your best.

Thanks for reading this post!

I have highlighted the main ways how to improve writing skills if you are a non-native speaker and which worked and still work for me.

If you would like to know how I learn new things during the week, check out my “What I learned…” video series on YouTube. In 2019 I decided to share my weekly achievements and learnings to track my personal and professional growth.

I also would be happy to read your tips and suggestions on how you level up your writing skills. Feel free to leave a comment and share your way with other readers and me.


Photo by Emma Matthews on Unsplash

Posted on by:

ilonacodes profile

Ilona Dee Codes

@ilonacodes

I help developers to condense finance + investment knowledge via my tiny newsletters (+1000 readers) 📨 Get top-15 tips on how to save more cash monthly 👇

Discussion

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I'm a non-native speaker too.

I was awful at English in school, almost dropped out because of it, that was 15 years ago.

I wanted to become a developer and to be on the bleeding edge of technology I had to read English content online.

I got the impression German tech-news were often 1-2 weeks behind, so one day I stopped reading German tech content entirely.

When I noticed my English improving I also started reading English books and watching movies and shows in English, which grew my understanding tremendously.

2017 I started blogging, this showed me my deficits in writing, but I got better over time. In 2018 I even wrote my first book entirely in English. Grammarly and a native-speaker as an editor helped much with that.

 

Wow! You really did a great job! 👍

 
 

Cool post! Having such a large portion of the dev community communicating in your native language is something I think a lot of English speakers take for granted, myself included. In the spirit of constant improvement and help from native speakers, I've done some edits for you :). I hope they are helpful!

I used to be an awful writer, mainly because I have only learned English as a second language at school.

Yes, my English writing

You can cut English here, it is implied by the context.

And it took around two years of consistent work to reach a “not that bad” style of writing.

At the beginning of my blogging journey, I have spent around 4-5 hours to re-read, edit and confirm the end version of the post before publishing it.

Especially in the styles , you want to emulate

You don't need this comma.

I believe that one of the best ways to perfect writing skills and grammar is to read. And read a A lot.

Try to collect or keep notes of the writing templates the most used while doing a new post.

This does not quite make sense. Do you mean:

Try to collection or keep notes on the writing template you use the most.

or

Take notes on popular writing templates, and use them yourself.

.

I have use(d) the program in my everyday writing for over a year or more.

It helps find comma errors with ease, detect and correct repetitive words, and highlight(s) the missing details during the writing

Remember, that no one was born a professional and no one is perfect.

In the beginning, probably, you might will not be that good,

 

Amazing! 😃Thank you for the edits, and your spent time on that 🙏 I appreciate it ☺️and will correct the post later.

 

But you never did correct them!
I am not a native speaker myself but I noticed some of the errors that Sam Colburn saw.

 

I found the book "The Elements of Style" (Strunk, White) very helpful for improving my writing skills.

 

The Elements of Style is definitely a classic, but I find newer books like The Sense of Style better suited for modern English. Also, I also highly recommend On Writing Well for a more fun yet educational read.

Grammarly is very useful, I use the premium plan, but we can't blindly follow all its corrections. I find particularly nagging its stubbornness to flag passive voice as incorrect. Passive voice has its place in the English language and is sometimes the best alternative to say something.

 

Thank you for the link 🙏 I bought it already! 🙂

 

Thank you, Ilona. As a non-native speaker, I also have to labor to write in proper English, and I am paranoid about it too, especially as a blogger. I find that using my computer to read back to me what I wrote really helps to catch a lot of errors. My "ear" sometimes is more attuned to errors than my eyes.

 

Another tip! 📌 It's also useful to re-read a post aloud before publishing 🙂

 

I'm really bad at English since I was in school despite my country's education system uses the UK English standards.

I find that reading the book On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction and Grammarly is really a lifesaver as I started to write articles for my blog.

 

You are right, Grammarly is a gem! 💎 Thank you for the book 🙏 I will check it out 🙂

 

Because language is our border. But language too is our bridge.

correctmygrammar haha

 

That is very well said! 👍

 

I agree, especially with Grammarly. Grammarly it's not perfect but it helps a little.

I also started reading light novels. Why? Because they are funny!

Also, I started publishing on Medium (free), Github (obvious) and even published a Wikia.

 

You do right things! Keep blogging! 🚀

 

Thanks for this article!

I think I'm not the only non-native english writer who takes it as an incentive to keep on working, writing and improving.
God job!

Btw, the hemingwayapp has been greatly helpful to me, may it could be to you too...

 

Really nice app. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for the link.

 

Hi there!
I'm also a non-native speaker. My native language is Russian.

So, because of the big part of interesting blogs and frontend articles are in English, I'm trying to do my best for practice in this language.

For now, I've finished translation for one chapter (Chapter 2)of "Types&Grammar" book of YDKJS series by Kyle Simpson. And also I like to watch some movies in the original language with eng subtitles. When I wearing my headphones, I always try to figure out what about this song.

For translation, I use "ReversoContext" app, for me it's awesome! Sometimes I watch funny YouTube videos and lessons with explanation songs and movies from famous bloggers))

 

Helpful tips about the translation of books! 😃

 

Very relatable! I only became fluent because I spent a two years abroad in the USA. In school it was my weakest subject and failed almost all of the tests. So imagine me, someone who speaks about 3 basic sentences, being sent to a country where he knows no one and no one speaks Dutch... It was scary, but the best thing that could happen to me.

Right now with the writing aspect, you're spot on about all the points you make! Excellent post, thanks for bringing me back to the time I was still learning English, not knowing what it'd bring me in the end. 🙌

 

Non-native english writer here as well
I can very well relate with your struggles.

Grammarly is super well-known because they have ads everywhere on the internet.

But I don't find Grammarly actually good.

It has too many false positives and bad suggestion.
According to them for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is full of errors.

The funny part is that Grammarly is much worse if you pay the pro plan.

It then adds more suggestions that are also wrong.

Is there a no-nonsense alternative to Grammarly?

Ideally that would work at the macOS/Linux level

 

Thanks for posting this. As a non-native English writer, I can relate, a lot.

Here are some writing tips I've collected:

  • There is no replacement for practice. Write every day.

  • No one gets it right on the first draft. Be ready to edit and re-edit and re-edit.

  • Get someone to proofread before publishing. We are blind to our own mistakes too often.

  • Content is not clear unless your readers can (1) Find what they need. (2) Understand what they find. (3) Use what they find to meet their needs.

  • Well written prose has Clarity, Simplicity, Brevity, and Humanity.

  • Collect too much material, give the reader just enough.

  • Ruthlessly reduce your sentences. Edit until you can't eliminate or combine any more words.

  • Know your audience.

  • Don't overexplain.

  • Use the simplest word that maintains your meaning.

  • The first paragraph is crucial to catch your reader's attention. Don't waste it.

  • As soon as you made your point, look for the nearest exit and finish your post/chapter/section.

  • Readers will skim so plan accordingly.

 

I can relate. English is not my native language and right now I'm trying to start blogging in English and Spanish. Thank you for the tips!!

 

Oh, this sounds great! It is even more challenging; you’re going to post in two languages! 😃Maybe I should do that as well, but English and German. 😅

 

Great advices!
Anything that forces you to spend time using the language will help you be better at it (not just for writing) Watching movies or listening podcast too has helped me a lot.

 

Also, if you get the chance to be among native speakers for a good part of your day (like at work), it gives you a tremendous boost, as well! 👍

 

Great post!

I spend a lot of time on Google translate and linguee to check my phrases.

As a non-native speaker, I always feel that my posts are boring.
But maybe it would be the same in French 😕

 

To make posts less boring, I could personally recommend the book "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die". 🙂

 

i am just amazed by the fact that someone's last name is actually called "Codes" - it looks you were born for this job !

 

Oh, that is not my real second name. That is the name of my brand. 🙈

 

This is really great. I am a native speaker, but I think these tips are fantastic and inclusive. Shared on Twitter :)

 

Thank you. I saw! 🙏 I’m happy to follow you!

 

YouTube links has not been worked

 
 

Today, I read this post again. I'm still bad at writing. Sometimes I'm looking for friends to write or talk in English.

I believe this is the only way to improve my English.

 

This great post encourages me.
I, as a non-native, will improve my English diligently and hard like you.
Thank you :)

 

I was reading your post and trust me I would never get that you aren't a native speaker if you hadn't mentioned it yourself!

Anyway, best wishes from another not native speaker!

 

I enjoy the advice. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It is something that more of us have to do to help others.