by Alysia Bartley

96 Tips to Guarantee English as a Second Language Writing Perfection at Work

child in school with book

[Great] writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.E. L. Doctorow

There are more than 2.5 million blog posts published every day on the web from around the world displayed on Worldometers’ counter.  Add in daily business emails, reports, and letters – and that is a lot of writing!

Did you ever stop to think what makes a great post, email, report or letter?

What is it that separates the “great” writing from just “average” or just “not so great” writing?

Hopefully some of these tips will help you as you continue to write on your daily job. Okay, here goes. In no particular order… 100 tips for how to write better in English and along the way to become more fluent in English.

1.     Eye-catching title

I am sure you can relate to this one. If you come up with a title to lure your audience into reading more, then that’s exactly what a good title should do.

2.     Relevant topic

When you write, consider topics that would be important to write about for whatever reason. Maybe the topic is important to you. Maybe what you write about needs to be said. Maybe the topic is important to your colleagues, your competitors, your boss, your customers, etc.

3.     Fits a specific topic

When you write, be aware of how your writing should “fit”.  Must it follow a certain topic? Must you write it a certain way? Are there word limits or other rules that need to be followed? If you want to generate meaningful content then you need to make sure your choice of words matches your overall purpose. Stick to the topic and don’t write in tangents.

4.     Add a noteworthy summary

It is best to write a concise summary so your audience is reminded of the purpose of your writing. Keep it simple. Define exactly the purpose of the correspondence. Do you expect the reader(s) to take action?  Ask for it. Outline what you expect. Do you promise a service or a product? Be clear on your end, too.

5.     Revise and fine tune

Just because it may be a shorter piece of writing (think email) or just because the audience is someone you know well (think colleague), it doesn’t mean you can forgo the editing. Revise and fine tune like all types of writing.  A good read means a lot.

6.     Appropriate grammar

Mistakes don’t cut it. Make sure your grammar is 100%. If you are unsure, check out the specific grammar rules online.

7.     Accurate spelling

Ditto for spelling. Use spell-check and other online tools and available sources to ensure 100% accuracy.

8.     Correct punctuation

Ditto for punctuation. Punctuation needs to be accurate, too.

9.     Double-check that links work

That extra few minutes it takes to ensure your links work will pay off big time in the long run. How frustrating it is for a reader who wants to find out more, but can’t because the link just does not work! And it is not a very good reflection on your part.

10.  Link relevant things to your article

Find the most relevant things that your audience wants to know and add links.

11.  Don’t overdo links

Enough is enough. Watch the number of links. Choose carefully and selectively.

12. 

Headings and sub-headings

These can serve several valuable purposes to organize your writing and to help the reader search for parts of your article that they want to read/re-read, bookmark, share, etc. Break these down. Use a different font, bold the letters or use spacing. Write in a logical format so it is natural where the headings and sub-headings follow. Then write these accordingly.

13.  Add images and photos

Who doesn’t like a great image or photo? Just make sure it supports your writing. Select for audience impact. Use only if necessary.

14.  Give credit to sources

If you quote, cite the source. Perhaps your topic might want readers to read more. Offer them some sources for further reading.

15.  Use accurate information

Readers are sharp. Do you remember when you read something that wasn’t true or there was nothing to back it up? How did that make you feel? Did you continue reading the article? Did you wish that the source was quoted? Was a statistic given without merit? Always use accurate information. Your readers deserve nothing less.

16.  Use up-to-date information

Readers can find information with the touch of their fingers. Don’t disappoint them and cite sources that are not current. Don’t give them information they have already read some time ago.

17.  Encourage comments

This avenue allows your readers to develop a relationship with you. Encouraging comments has great value. It allows the audience to respond and it lets you know what other think. That’s valuable

18.  Use a successful format:  short, detailed or lists

Everyone has different preferences. There is a place for short pieces of writing. There is a place for more detailed writing. There is a place for lists. Try to match your topic, your purpose, your audience, your writing style to a specific preference.  All have their pluses.

19.  Measure the performance of your writing to gauge future writing

Can you determine how your writing was received? Try to incorporate the strongest attributes of a piece of writing that you felt was great. Can you remember some of your better pieces of writing? Try to use similar features in future writing.

20.  Include a way to be contacted for more info, questions, etc.

Can your readers find you? Can they write to you for more information or to ask a question? Be open to ways your readers can reach you. Include contact information (an email address, a phone number, a street address).

21.  Get the reader to act

If this fits the scope of your article and the purpose of your posting, then by all means go for it! If your writing can solicit action, and the readers follow through, then they probably feel great about your writing (and themselves, too).

22.  Research-based

Don’t just say something, back it up. Spend some quality time getting your facts straight, learning the history or science behind something, etc.  Then share this with your audience.

23.  Know your audience (needs and interests)

Use whatever you have that’s relevant to your audience to help you write. Perhaps you can build on questions they have asked you? Maybe in your online reading, you find a “hot topic” that you think will appeal to your audience. This might be worth a reference.

24.  Add a personal touch

No one likes the distant writer who does not relate to the real world and to others. Be personable. Identify with your audience but still be guarded on how you write. For example, if you are writing to your boss, maintain an appropriate distance and don’t come across as too casual.

25.  Limit use of capital letters

Use all capitals sparingly so it does not distract from your writing.

26.  Interesting content or approach to writing

Can you think of an interesting way to write your message?  Would it help to tell a story? How about asking your readers how they are or greeting them in some way? Would it help to start off with a quote of some kind?

27.  Don’t rant, criticize, bring negativity

Try to be as positive as possible.  Most people like to be inspired and motivated. Most people like to be encouraged to think positively, too.

28.  Original content or original writing style

Do you have something to say or a way to say something that is different from other writers? Did you ever read something really original?  How did you react when you read that?

29.  Easy enough to read

How do you feel when you read something that is written way above your head? Let’s face it, if you can’t read and understand the words, you just might not even get beyond the first paragraph, much less read any more of that particular writing.

30.  Purposeful writing

Always think of why you are writing that particular piece before you write it. Ask yourself the purpose of the writing.

31.  Don’t overuse color

Color can attract and add to a piece of writing, but it can also distract the reader. Use it sparingly and appropriately.

32.  Have title match content

There is no use for a catchy title that does not mesh with the body of the article. It must fit. Think really hard about it. Then think some more.

33.  Short enough sentences

Don’t have long-winded sentences and use all complex sentences.  Your readers want to read the writing and not have to re-read it just to understand it. They don’t want to be confused readers either. Nor do they expect to use a dictionary to decipher the intent of the writing.

34.  Easy to understand vocabulary

Ditto from above. Don’t lose your readers.

35.  Don’t use overuse acronyms and explain them

If an acronym is common, you can use it; otherwise explain it. Don’t assume all of your readers will understand what you are talking about. Don’t use too many acronyms or you may lose your readers.  The writing might be hard to follow.

36.  Stay on topic

Don’t be the run-on writer who writes on tangents. Connect your thoughts. Use an outline or graphic organizer. Stay focused and organized.

37.  Keep organized in thought and flow

Ditto the above. Scattered thoughts and scattered flow are hard to follow. Did you ever read something and wonder what was actually said? Make sure you have something to say and say it.

38.  Have strong conclusion

Did you ever read something that ended without you really know it was the end? You should wrap up your writing in some way so the reader knows it is the ending.

39.  Be concise

Don’t repeat. Don’t ramble. People don’t have time. There is nothing worse than having to re-read the same points over and over. Say it once and mean what you say.

40.  Write to the point and be direct

Ditto the above. Say it once and mean what you say.

41.  State your opinion

Sometimes it is good to say what you think. Just make sure your audience knows it is your viewpoint.

42.  Ask questions

When you ask pertinent questions, you invite your readers to become invested in your post. When you ask genuine questions, you establish a personal relationship with your readers which helps build readership.

43.  Don’t solicit

Some people get turned off if they constantly read information that asks them to donate funds for a cause. It can be overkill. If you must ask for money (fundraising letter, grant money, startup funds, etc.), find a better way of doing it. Maybe explain the reason with a personal story. Maybe show a real need in a succinct way.  Maybe only ask one time – ever.

44.  Define technical terms

Again, don’t assume that everyone knows what you are talking about. Just because you are an “expert” or “specialized” at something, doesn’t mean everyone else is. Continually put yourself in your readers’ shoes. How do you feel when you don’t know what someone is talking about and you just don’t understand? Don’t overwhelm your reader.

45.  Word choice

There might be some words that are important to use in your article to draw in your readers. Find out what these are and use the words genuinely. Make it a natural flow.

46.  Write with passion

To share your excitement about something with someone is great. It is better to be enthusiastic than to be write in a mundane style.

47.  Don’t exaggerate

Even though it is tempting, don’t overstate. Tell the truth. Your readers deserve this.

48.  Don’t reveal personal information unless pertinent

Share what is important. Not much more.

49.  Get ideas from your audience

Listen to your readers. If they write to you or comment, see if that can be a starting point for your next writing or you might want to follow-up with that person individually.

50.  Read for future writings

Read. Stay up on current events and current international topics.  Do any of these generate additional ideas for future writing?

51.  Consider writing in multi-languages

Perhaps you need to write to someone who speaks a different language. Is there a way that they can read your writing in their native language?

52.  Consider writing in several places

Can you use parts of your writing piece in more than one place?  Can you alter the text of one of writings to be used elsewhere?  Would this be helpful to you? Would this be advantageous to you?

53.  Enjoy your audience

Be thankful for those who you can correspond with and build relationships.

54.  Be patient – it takes time to develop great writing habits and skills

It is easy to compare yourself to other writers who may be strong writers and even have a gift for writing. Put things in perspective and realize that it takes time to develop great writing habits and skills. Keep at it. Remain positive. Keep working. It will come.

55.  Build social networks

Are there ways your readers can easily share your writing with others?

56.  Consider giving something away

Everyone likes a free gift. What you choose to give away should fit the purpose of your writing and the audience. It should be something that is appealing to the audience that they can get with minimal effort.  Obviously this suggestion lends itself to only certain types of writing like a promotional or inspirational piece. But it is worth thinking about.

57.  Give knowledge

Instill learning of something to your audience and if/when this is valued, they will be more apt to remember this and link you to the learning.

58.  Update your information that you like to share from time to time

Keep your information updated. Check on stats, dates, addresses, names, etc. Update accordingly.

59.  Do year-end summary of your writing and readership, etc.

For your own benefit, review some of your writing pieces, their content, readerships numbers/interest, etc. Summarize this for yourself, your company – if applicable, your viewers – if appropriate, etc.

60.  Cultivate relationships with your audience

If you are genuine and treat your viewers as individuals (invite them to comment and question, answer their questions, etc.), they will look forward to future correspondence.

61.  Use adjectives and descriptive language to build interest

A great piece of writing is worth reading.

62.  Be mobile friendly

Even if you may not know about all of the mobile possibilities out there, be open to them. Read. Listen to others. Be ready to learn and to try new avenues.  Give the audience what they want.

63.  Keep the audience wanting more

Wet their appetites with something important, refreshing, new, original, stimulating, etc. and they will want to come back and read more.

64.  Tease your next writing

When applicable, give a glimpse of what the next writing will be or when to expect it.

65.  Stay current with today’s issues

Again, read. Learn. Write about new and exciting things. Stay current to reach your audience.

66.  Use graphs and charts if relevant

Again, pictures can be helpful in many ways. They can make what you write more understandable and in a short amount of time the viewer can grasp the concept or intent. Add them when they are relevant and can support your writing.

67.  Build curiosity

This is the best kind of writing. Get your readers to want to read more and more often. Get them to read what you wrote.

68.  Don’t take yourself too seriously

Try not to be upset if the writing is hard to do, if it takes more time than you planned, or even if you feel you could have done a better job. Writing, like many things, is a skill that gets better the more you do it.

69.  Accept that not everyone will agree with you or “Like” it

Ditto the above. That is okay. Just keep going.

70.  Follow up on what you say you will do

Did you promise to do something?  To write about something? To give the reader something? Whatever it was, keep your promise.

71.  Don’t repost an article or part of an article that is copyrighted

Know the copyright rules and respect them. If you really want to include something that is copyrighted, reference the most relevant part and include that. Be respectful of other writers. They deserve nothing less than that.

72.  Remember “quality” over “quantity”

Try to have your goal to write well and not worry too much about the length; the length is secondary to the meat of the article.

73.  Understand that opinion is not fact

Remember to try to use quotes and facts that are supported with data. State these clearly. Then when you offer an opinion, state that your opinion is exactly that – i.e. your opinion.

74.  Don’t mix American and British English

If you are unsure, consult a suitable reference guide.

75.  Don’t use slang language unless it fits your purpose, audience or style of writing

Slang may offend particular readers because of their age or background. Be careful of the words you choose to use. Using slang with your boss and other management, with your competitors or with customers is probably not the best idea. Avoid it.

76.  Brainstorm with others about ideas and content

The benefit of brainstorming and “piggybacking” off of others’ ideas is immeasurable and it is worth the time and effort involved.

77.  Find a stimulating environment in which to think, write and edit

Ask yourself where is it that you write the best? Is it somewhere in your house or at the library? Is it at a coffee shop? Do you write better at a certain time of the day? Does it pay for you to develop a consistent time to write?

78.  Always use common etiquette

Be polite and respectful in your writing. It is never a good idea to tear someone down or to pass on gossip and untruths.

79.  Try not to use contractions

Some writings are just better when you spell out the words. Or if you have to, use contractions sparingly.

80.  Remember that a good story can help carry your point

Sometimes a story helps the reader understand your writing and it may help with remembering the main points of what you intended the reader to learn, etc.  A story may also invite interest.

81.  Be happy that someone is replying to you and acknowledging your writing

Again, even if you have comments, you at least have some interest. Use this as motivation to do your best. Someone calls you and mentions the email. Someone writes to you to discuss your letter. Be grateful that others care enough to comment on your writing.  Be gracious in thanking them and in your replies back to them.

82.  Consult resources to help your writing should questions arise

If you don’t know the answer to a viewer’s question(s), take the time to find out. Use outside resources and people to assist you. Everyone who asks a question deserves an answer.

83.  Increase your chances that your writing will be read

Are there some ways to attract readers? Again think purpose. Think word choice. Think crisp writing. Think targeted audience. Think genuine writing.

84.  Build headings with keywords

Use keywords in your headings to keep a reader’s attention.

85.  Structure headings to help the reader focus and find information to read or pass on

Remember, all headings are important. If a reader skims the writing and finds something interesting in a heading, they are more apt to read that rest. They may be skimming many other writings and many other types of writing, so if you have something to guide them, this will help the reader find what they are looking for and what you are trying to say to them.

86.  Use proper formatting and spacing

Your writing should look visually attractive with respect to font, spacing, indenting, etc. Look at other writing pieces to get an idea of possibilities. Read about what makes proper formatting and spacing, etc.

87.  Use an expert, professional or quote

If there is an opportunity that fits for you to involve someone who is knowledgeable or experienced in what you are conveying, use it. Quote them. Give them their respectful title (i.e. Dr., Ph.D.)

88.  Evoke emotion

Good writers evoke emotion from laughing to crying and everything in-between… Grab your audience.

89.  Write an overview in the first paragraph followed by details in subsequent paragraphs (if the writing is a longer piece)

The reader may not get past the first paragraph so give them enough information. They just might stick with you to read the details.

90.  Check the writing in different browsers (applicable if sending online)

See if your writing opens and is readable and looks professional in other browsers.

91.  Use a platform (applicable to writing that involves an image, video or podcast)

What works best for you? Stick to that and perfect it. Take the time to learn how to format a post, insert an image and embed a video or podcast. Stay up to date on the new versions and familiarize yourself with the features that best meet your needs and the interests of your readers.

92.  Replicate tactics that work and vice-versa

If asking for questions at the end of your writing seems to generate more response, then do it. Whatever seems to work the best for you and your readers, then that is what is important to continue.

93.  Clearly state authorship and title/credentials

Someone might want to know more about you as an author and what are your credentials and tie-in to the writing. Again, share this professionally, be honest, and tell just what needs to be told.

94.  Review web analytics for kinds of questions people type into search engines to deliver visitors (if applicable to your type of writing and purpose of writing)

What other questions and areas of interest do people have who might be present or future readers of your writing? Are there ways to find out?

95.  Uniqueness

Now is the time to be you. Be clever. There are hundreds of writing pieces about the same topic. There are hundreds of pieces of writing written in the same way. Everyone wants to write an e-book. Everyone wants to have a website. Everyone wants to write a series of emails to their potential customers and clients. What sets you apart from others?

96.  Always be open to constructive criticism, change, growth, suggestions, etc.

Being aware and accepting that you can become a better writer is the first step. Listen for cues on how to be the best writer you can be. How can you tweak your writing?  Keep your eyes open. Then do it.

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What do you think about this post? Do you have any tips to add to help ESL writers become great writers? What do you think makes a great post, email, report or letter? Write to me using the comments section below and share your thoughts. That would be great, too.

About the author:

Alysia is a co-founder of TalktoCanada. Since founding the online English teaching company in 2006, she has gone on to teach over 10,000 hours of online classes and managed large and small English training projects around the world. During her free time you can find her listening to the latest business book, travelling and going to the gym.