Learning English requires focus on four main skills -reading, writing, speaking and listening. Many students consider writing to be particularly difficult. According to Jeremy Harmer (a well-known English language teacher and trainer), students find speaking easier as it comes from exposure and environment whereas writing has to be consciously learned. This is why students hesitate in writing and lack confidence in this skill area. Many worry that their ideas aren’t good enough or the words they choose to use aren’t correct. However, there are strategies to practice and improve writing skills.

Quick writes

If you find it very difficult to start writing or come up with ideas, find short topics or questions and just practice writing continuously for five to ten minutes. The idea is to write without stopping, not worrying about spelling or grammar. Use a timer to time yourself in order to avoid stopping. Students who do “quick writes” daily will see an increase in written fluency and creativity in conceiving ideas, and have ongoing practice in a meaningful but less pressured way. Visit https://eslgold.com/writing/topics/ for topics that might be useful as quick writes.

Learner autonomy

Students often face different types of writing tasks in class or everyday life eg. emails, blogs, short stories, essays, etc. It is important to understand that each is different and requires different language - formal or informal English. Start out first by looking at an example of the type of writing you intend to generate and come up with a list of words or ideas related to the topic. Brainstorming ideas and vocabulary with a friend or classmate helps students think about the topic further.

Next, come up with an outline/framework to make the actual writing process easier. Having a plan facilitates one’s imagination of the content for each paragraph or section. After having written a first draft, re-read and take note of mistakes you might have made. Editing your own work will help you understand your mistakes in grammar, spelling and sentence structure and make you aware of them when you write in future. Seek an experienced writer or teacher for more feedback and useful insight on ideas, language and grammar.

Courses and workshops

For examples and writing prompts for different writing tasks visit https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/writing or https://www.britishcouncil.my/english/courses-adults for information on full-time and part-time courses for adults.