Do you want to improve your English writing skills and become a better writer? Yes? Well, then, become a better reader. Why? Because what we learn as readers, we use as writers.
For this to work we need to:
make reading a habit
choose good writers, or materials related to your everyday activities: memos, newspaper articles, schedules, brochures, etc
find time for reading (while you are waiting in a queue, before sleeping, while on a bus or train), reading a bit every day will help you increase your vocabulary and improve your grammar
read things you enjoy, but once in a while, give yourself a challenge to read something different for a change
pay attention to how the author plays with words, phrases and structures
Will these things help you become a better writer? Yes. Writing is a very hard skill to teach, but reading a lot can help you in different ways:
It boosts your inspiration
It improves your general knowledge as well as your language knowledge
It enlarges your vocabulary
By analyzing the structure used by good writers, the structure and grammar of your own writings get better
Maybe you are willing to read something, anything, but you are not sure how to take advantage of your reading to improve your other language skills?
Here are some simple strategies to help you:
Unfamiliar words can be treated in different ways:
Many texts have pictures, or other visuals that can give you clues as to what a certain word means
Look at the word and try to find prefixes, suffixes or other signs to help you get the meaning more easily
Don’t get stuck on a word you don’t know: keep reading. Sometimes, the context helps you understand unfamiliar words
Before starting reading, you can try to think about the topic and anything related to it you might know. Also, look at the pictures, charts, diagrams , etc – if any – to predict what the text will be about
Learn words that can organize a text: cohesion markers or transition words connect different parts of a text and they show the way in which the writer structures their thoughts. If you know these words, you will find it easier to understand what you are reading
To get an overview of the text you are reading, skimming is a useful strategy. It is based on the principle that the central ideas of a text (articles, essays , even chapters of books) are generally presented three times:
A brief note in the introduction
A detailed discussion of the central idea in the body of the text
And again a brief review in the conclusion
Besides, each well-written paragraph has a first sentence that presents the topic –the main points to be developed in that paragraph. So, by reading the first sentence of each paragraph, the reader will get a clear idea of what the text is about and decide if that text suits their needs or interests.
When you want to find specific information in a text, a strategy that helps a lot is scanning. Most people use scanning to read web pages when surfing the internet. How do I scan?
Don’t read every single word in a sentence.
Titles and headlines give you clues as to what the passage is about
If you write down some questions about what you want to find in the text you are reading, you will look for that specific information and skip what is not relevant.
Practice scanning by looking up a word in the dictionary, a telephone number is the directory, the ingredients of a recipe, etc
These tips will help you improve your writing skills. Take ourEnglish test to see your level of English now!
Mary Milne has worked for Wall Street English for 20 years. After studying at the University of Bristol and subsequently doing a CELTA course, she began her career in teaching. Over the years she has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience in ESL and has worked as an Online Community Manager, and author for Wall Street English International and Pearson, writing informative educational content. She dedicates most of her free time to music, playing in a band and singing in a choir.