How to Improve Writing Skills (when English is your second language)

Your writing in a business situation can become less stressful if you follow these 9 tips.

Language sheds light on culture. In the American culture, the values of communication include precision, clarity, and politeness. Here is how you can master all these in the shortest possible timeframe.
One of the most popular writing tasks is email communication. Let’s start there.

Start with the end in mind. [1-2 sentences]

Jot a quick draft. If necessary, you can do it in your native language first. The idea here is to avoid staring at a blank piece of paper. Get going. Another way to get started is to use a voice memo feature on your phone or inside a Google Doc.
Write down/speak through what you would like the person’s response to be. That’s right – focus first on the result that you would like to get from your communication. – I need more information to help me decide… – I need information on how to… – I would love for them to help me with… Now go ahead and make that the first line of your message.

Support your message. [1-2 sentences]

Give them a little bit information of about why you are making the request. Put some meat on the bone, so to speak. If you are looking for input or advice, the idea remains the same – start your email with the request.

Use the Hamburger Technique. [1 sentence]

Imagine a nice hamburger. It usually involves two pieces of great quality bun. Remember to keep both pieces of the bun! Make the top part of the bun your intro sentence, while the bottom part of the bun is your sign-off sentence. Reinforce the main point at the end and you got yourself a juicy communication!

Keep it short and sweet.

Ask anyone and they will mostly tell you that they would rather have one short email, and then a reminder a week later, rather than a long one with no follow-up. Start editing yourself – keep the essentials, get rid of the fluff.

Sign off but provide all the necessary info.

Even if this is not a super formal occasion, give the person you are communicating with the opportunity to save time by not looking up your full name and the best ways to reach you. Use a standard signature block. It does not need to be a fancy one, but a few lines will be perfect – your name, an associated business (if that is relevant to you), email, and phone number.

Avoid parasitic words (fillers).

Use google extension Just Not Sorry. This app will highlight all the ‘sorry’ and ‘just’, which make their way into our writing over time.

Start a personal swipe file.

Create your personal ‘swipe file’ of examples of emails that look professional and well-written to you.
Briskine A free tier will give you space to create 30 templates.

Ask someone to help you.

If you feel the ground moving under your feet at the mere thought of writing, you might be better off asking someone to help you. Think of someone you are comfortable asking for help – it might be a neighbor, a friend. Just ask, ‘May I kindly ask you to help me word this email well? I need them to provide some extra information on…Thank you.’ You might feel embarrassed at the moment but focus on making this a learning experience for yourself.

Take a great course (free options exist)

Go deeper into this skill. A good place to start is a free course, such as Professional Emails in English or Better Business Writing in English – both available on Coursera. Both of these courses might give you tangible real-life skills to support you in being a strong communicator. Georgia Tech University hosts both of these courses. You are in good hands.
The key is in developing a simple writing process and moving towards developing your own writing style. Your writing skills will develop much faster if you practice them daily. Opting to write your journal notes in English can provide a nice option to avoid self-criticism. Consider starting a social media channel and commit to daily posts to practice writing concise sentences and connecting to yourself through writing in a more creative way.

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