How Would I Improve My Writing Skills to Excellence and Confidence?

This thread is a follow up to this one on improving my listening skills.

The reason I wanted to keep these two topics separated was to receive more specifics advice on each of these arguments. Yes, they will interchange, but it is more about best specific methodologies, materials, and so on.

Target language: English

Improving my writing is my MAIN goal for the next year and more. The reason is that I have been rebuilding everything in the last months, and changing my goals entirely. Improving listening, and fine tuning it, will be a plus.

Believe it or not, I haven’t dedicated much time in the last 20 years to English, which is the language I love the most!

But now the goal is different, I want to be able to write properly in English, at the level of blogging/copywriting/journalist/writer. It is a progression, starting with blogging, which is something I love to do.
This would be my job!

I cannot tell you the format/subject because I don’t know it yet. It will change and improve step by step.
But I want to reach a level of excellence, starting from the average point I’m right now, which is just random with weak foundations.

Time Block: I hope to be able to dedicate 3 hours daily, including or not the listening time block (45’).

TOOLS:
A part from the activity already done with LingQ/Youtube/podcasts for building vocabulary, I haven’t thought about much else.

The only tool I thought is Italki to find a good teacher and create a long-term program.

I don’t think it is possible to improve writing without laser professional feedback that will first correct all my current mistakes, and then step by step improving on style. I need to fix grammar and punctuation first, and then improve the rest.

It is very difficult to write “on paper” without second guessing everything all the time. Is this good? Does it sound good? Is this a repetition? Is it too stupid? Do people really say this or that?

What would be your suggestions to include in my learning program? Which characteristics should a teacher have?
What tools do you think should I consider?

I really appreciate any help I can get. Writing in English could become my main occupation if I will be able to achieve the level I desire.

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As foreign students we were supposed to write 10-15 page long academic papers right from the first semester. Grammarly was recommended by our English professor. She was German native but did her masters from an American university and lived there for 20 years. Using Grammarly as a tool was a great help when it came to rewording cretain words, phrases and spellings.

Seeking help from a professional tutor is always helpful. You can not go wrong with that. As per our professor reading voraciously always helps with devleoping writing skills. If you are aiming to emulate a certain style of writing then you must start reading that sort of stuff (blogs, articles etc). Whatever floats your boat.

You write amazingly good.

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Thanks for sharing your experience. I appreciate it.

Reading is always presented as a good tool for learning to write properly. However, it doesn’t work for me, or at least, I think it’s not enough.
I have tried to observe this on myself, and I could read forever but nothing would change. In fact, I read in English all the time.

I believe we need to be intentional and methodic. What I mean is that by learning to improve writing, which is what I intend to do, and then reading by focusing on what I learn, I could possibly improve. But it would be less effective - probably - that producing writing outputs and have immediate professional feedback.

I have noticed that my mind can laser focus on something but not on everything at the same time. I can read for increasing vocabulary, I can read for understanding the content, I can read for…, but I cannot do everything at the same time.

I read in English all the time, my writing is the same. Same thing that I have written in the listening thread. I can listen to podcasts and audiobooks all the time, but my listening skills don’t improve too much.

I believe it is a question of challenge as well. The problem with writing, compared to listening and reading, is that we need professional feedback from others, unless we have a very high level of competence on the language.

A tool like Grammarly could be interesting as well. Today we have many different offers like Grammarly, DeepL write, Gpt4.5, etc.
It’s becoming somehow difficult to understand what it is the best tool, and for what. I can definitely invest some money in one of these softwares to improve writing, but at the moment, I wouldn’t know which one to choose.

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Hi Davide,

IMO, your English is good enough to start a blog in English right away.
You don’t have to wait until you’ve reached a level comparable to that
of elite journalists from “The New Yorker” :slight_smile:

It’s probably more important to find topics you know well (from
your own experience, after doing some research, etc.) and
care about (that is, passion goes a long way!).

However, if you want to improve your writing, you could use the following
resources:

  1. Deepl Write
    You can choose between various styles (academic, business, etc.) and
    get alternative formulations, which are often quite helpful.

Do you need other AI tools as well? In my experience, that’s overkill.
“Deepl Write” usually does the job - and it’s free.

However, it’s sometimes good to have the second opinion of educated native
speakers (tutors, writing forums, etc.), esp. when it comes to nuances (slang,
included).

That is, I trust educated native speakers more than any of the AI tools
currently available.

  1. Grammar
    Michael Swan’s “Practical English Usage” is awesome because
    it lists many of the problems that non-native speakers of English
    tend to encounter!

  2. Creative Writing Courses
    See Coursera.

  3. Copy editors / writing coaches (?)**
    Look for them on the internet - if you think you
    need them.

  4. Imitate what you want to become
    Read your favorite blogs in the domains you’re interested
    in and rewrite some of their posts (rince and repeat).

You could use 1. and 4. for these reformulations…

  1. SRS for interesting collocations and sentences
    Read like a professional writer and collect the sentences / collocations
    from fellow authors you like.

And then use an SRS to drill them (if possible, use LingQ2Anki because
that’s a straightforward tool pipeline).

Good luck / have a nice Sunday
Peter

PS -
Style guides in English might be helpful as well!

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@PeterBormann Thank you as usual for your suggestions. However, you definitely have much more confidence on my writing that I do.
I will definitely look more closely to Deepl Write as a possible tool, and I’m glad you mentioned a practical grammar because I was looking for one to use in parallel of what I have already.

Time flies when we write, I guess that time block will be the bare minimum to consider.

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I think non-native speakers worry too much about their language levels.
However, what I’ve seen in academia and business is that it’s much more important
that people “know their stuff”.

In other words, native speakers who don’t know what they’re talking about are
worse than non-native speakers who make a few language mistakes,
but know their stuff.

In short, knowing your stuff comes first, language excellence comes 2nd.

That said, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on your writing skills
in English (I mean we all do, right? :slight_smile: ).

So if I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about my writing skills (at least
the ones enhanced by “Deepl Write” :slight_smile: ).

BTW, what is your blog about?
Self help / optimization, travel, etc.?

Apart from that:
Have you already thought about selecting a writing platform such as “Medium” or “Substack”?
Or a combo like: “Wordpress blog + Medium / Substack”?

What I want to say is this: Choosing the appropriate platform and doing a lot of social media marketing are as important as the writing process itself..

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True, but I will compete in an enormous marketplace where at least knowing the language very well will be the bare minimum. A typo could be ok sometimes but not the norm, bigger mistakes absolutely not.

You make a good point here, and this is definitely something else I’ve been working on. However, everything is under transformation and investigation, so I can’t be totally sure about it at the moment. But I can start with sharpening and refining the tool (writing), and then progressing and evolving from there. I’m sure the answers will come.

This is something else I have been working on understanding as well. I’m well aware on the platforms as I’ve been using them for the last 10 years. However, many things have to be taken in consideration depending on various variables that are not specific for this thread or even this forum. But yes, choosing the right platform would be another decision to take, but it won’t be immediate, as I would dedicate more time on working on the language first.
Unfortunately, my relationship with social media is not idyllic either, but that’s another story as well.

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I add here for future reference the post of @Maniao_o

I’ve been exactly where you are, and I know how frustrating it can feel. When my writing was at its worst, I realized that simply rewriting my work based on feedback wasn’t enough. What really made a difference was incorporating a few key strategies into my practice.

Firstly, I started journaling daily. This wasn’t just about practicing writing; it was about finding my voice and becoming comfortable expressing my thoughts on paper without the pressure of being correct.

Then, I focused on the feedback I received. Instead of just rewriting my work, I took the time to understand the patterns in my mistakes. Were they grammatical errors, issues with sentence structure, or problems with coherence? Understanding these patterns helped me target my weaknesses more effectively.

Additionally, I engaged in peer review with fellow learners. This mutual exchange of feedback provided fresh perspectives on my writing and taught me to critique constructively.

Lastly, I embraced reading as a part of my writing practice. Reading widely exposed me to different writing styles, vocabularies, and sentence structures, which I then tried to mimic in my own writing.

Remember, improving your writing is a journey. Be patient with yourself and celebrate the small victories along the way.

A very interesting answer. I’ve switched to journaling in English as well since few days ago. I’m a bit late on schedule but I will soon start my improvement journey. Any other tip would be gladly appreciated.

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Just taking your top post as an example, I believe you are at the same level as many native English writers that post as a hobby or in a semi~professional way to places like Medium. I can detect maybe a handful of phrases/words that are slightly off. You could call them “tells” that you are non~native but they are no impediment to understanding, and they don’t give the credibility hit.

Basically, if I saw this writing on Substack, Medium, or Buzzfeed, I wouldn’t judge the English level as out of place. But in the New Yorker or Atlantic, it would seem strange.

Congratulations. It must have been a tremendous amount of work to get to that level.

But you didn’t ask for compliments. I mean to say that some strategies where you just start writing for an audience should be available to you now. If you aim to write content that is informative or insightful, rather than stylistically important, it seems you are ready.

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@ErikH2000 thank you, this is a very helpful feedback. Gladly appreciated. I really have the intention to raise the bar and improve all aspects of the language. Your examples are on point to make me understand where I’m at the moment. However, I’m a bit more self-critique of myself (probably too much as usual), but I’m confident that I will fix this before the end of the year.

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@davideroccato:

I’ve always assumed you were an English speaker.

Salut!

I am a writer and a student of that art. An important approach I learned from writing teacher,. Peter Elbow, was “freewriting.”

Elbow separates the writing process into generating words and revising them. Generating words is “freewriting.” Just write continuously for some period of time on a topic without stopping to revise. After the freewriting, then and only then do you revise.

I found it really opened up my writing so I could get the words out first, knowing I could get them right later. So no writer’s block.

I should try it with French.

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@jt23:

Interesting, thanks for sharing. I often use freewriting when journaling but I’ve always thought it was more a psychological tool to dig inside our unconscious mind rather than helping with writing per se. However, I will keep that in mind as a tool for this purpose as well.

I used to write quite often in French a lot of time ago. Unfortunately, we can’t do everything so I don’t dedicate time to focus on writing in other languages now. French in trickier because of the spelling. It needs to be practiced constantly. Good luck with your training.

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@davideroccato

Freewriting has many uses. In language learning I can see it used to get over that gap Krashen describes between acquiring L2 and monitoring L2:

The monitor hypothesis asserts that a learner’s learned system acts as a monitor to what they are producing. In other words, while only the acquired system is able to produce spontaneous speech, the learned system is used to check what is being spoken.

Before the learner produces an utterance, he or she internally scans it for errors, and uses the learned system to make corrections. Self-correction occurs when the learner uses the Monitor to correct a sentence after it is uttered. According to the hypothesis, such self-monitoring and self-correction are the only functions of conscious language learning.

Input hypothesis - Wikipedia

I allow myself that freedom texting to ChatGPT to blurt stuff out in French. If I can’t get the verb right, I just throw out the infinitive. That sort of thing.

I ask Chat for corrections and get them. But the point is to get the flow going and let the rest work itself out with experience.

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“Garner’s Modern English Usage” is my favorite resource, a tool that I try to keep handy at all times. Highly recommend!

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I found it somewhat challenging to write just for the sake of writing. I needed a reason to write more than just putting words on the page. One thing, which I found worked well and gave me a reason to write, was to write reviews. You can write reviews of the restaurants you go to, the shops you visit, the businesses you interact with, etc. You can make these reviews as long and as flowery as you like.

Other reasons include:

  • Writing comments and having discussions on forums, like Reddit, news websites, etc.
  • Taking online university courses like on Coursera, EdX, etc. which involve essay writing, like history courses, etc.
  • Signing up for a fiction writing class or a novel writing challenge

If you really want, you can copy and paste your writing into ChatGPT and ask it to correct your errors and rewrite/paraphrase what you wrote and compare the two versions side by side. You may find that there may be a few sentences, which ChatGPT wrote, which just sound more ‘natural’ to you, as if a native speaker wrote them.

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Interesting, thanks. Maybe I can take this in consideration for next year.

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You mentioned, if I am not mistaken, that you want to start by writing and presumably publising blog posts. If that’s the case, I suggest that you choose a topic that you enjoy and write about that. Your word choice and style of writing will have a lot to do with who your target audience is. It is probably best to use the English that your audience easily understands and appreciates.

Of course you can get feedback from a proofreader or editor, however, your audience will also give you feedback.

Another approach is to write a journal, a diary, for yourself. You can do it online and make it public. As you hone your writing skills, your writing will improve and you be doing less “second guessing” because it will just be you, expressing yourself, using correct constructions and having one or more editors/proofreaders in the early stages.

You can practice by reading blogs that you enjoy and writing substantive comments, when so moved, related to posts that you read. Read posts and comments and you will get a better, more honed feel, for what “sounds good” or what “is too stupid” for a given sites audience.

3 hours a days! Wow! Is that something like 20% of your waking hours? Of course you can and will do anything you set your mind to,

Best wishes and continued success!

What tools do you think should I consider? (original)
What tools do you think I should consider? (a corrected version)
What tools should I consider? (a corrected version)
The word order in the original is incorrect. Notice the word order, the corrected versions.

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@TeacherNia thanks for all suggestions.

This is something I’ve been trying to figure out for a long time. I have experience with blogs, and how they work, but it is a long story to find what I really like to write about, convert it into a permanent job, and do it for a long time. I’m digging more into myself, ADHD, self-realisation, multipotentialite, and a tons of other stuff.

I think I will start with something different and I will grow from there. For now, I will focus on writing as overall experience. I need to refresh my grammar and general rules as I don’t remember anything anymore. It is a long time that I don’t pay attention to the English language.

I’m getting there though. I really understand what you are saying.

I’m already journaling but I’m not sure about doing it online. It is a good idea though but I’m not sure about it. I’m thinking about making things converge to each other. A personal blog where I write about my journey as well, but in a professional way. More and more. Afterwards I can eventually develop another niche blog from it, if it will come out as necessary.

Anyway, thanks for sharing. I appreciate it.

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If you are looking for a job, find out who is hiring and let your employer determine the topic(s) you write about. It sounds like you want to write in English for money. There are a lot of people writing in English for money and they are writing in many different styles, some of which you might consider “professional” and other styles you might think are not good enough. Find out who will be paying you and what they are ready to pay for. Let the market determine what you produce, what you offer.

Best wishes and continued success to you!

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@TeacherNia thank you. That discussion would be for another thread eventually. But just to clarify, I’m not searching to become a copywriter or similar for someone else (at least at the moment). Blogs/books or writing in general is/will become my profession. At least, this is the plan. But I switch to English as main language.

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