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How to improve your writing by yourself

Two hands typing on a laptop with a phone and paper in the foreground
There are five different ways learners can improve their writing on their own.
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What are the best ways to learn how to write? And can you learn how to write if there is no-one physically around to help you? Here are five tips, from Australian teacher Cara Dinneen, on how to improve your writing by yourself.

While there may not be a method of learning that doesn't involve practise, hard work or mistakes, Cara Dinneen from Navitas English says that English learners can intentionally improve their writing:

Understand your brain

Our brains contain billions neurons, which are nerve cells that receive and give out information.

"You can see those little threads that connect the neurons. When something is a faint idea, or a weak connection, the line between the neurons is fine. As we start to strengthen those connections, which we do through revision, those lines become stronger and wider. That’s when we get learning going," explains Cara.

Artist's impression of neurons in the brain and the multiple connections between them
“Neurons are constantly seeking to connect information and ideas. And that learning happens as those information and ideas are connected and joining into other neurons," says Cara Dinneen.

Pixabay CC: Gerd Altmann

Know your purpose for writing

Writing has different styles and forms, so Cara recommends knowing why you are writing:

Common functions, according to Cara, could include "expressing likes or interests, giving or asking for information, making suggestions."

The function of what you are writing will affect the tone and the language that you should use. For example, if you are giving or asking for information, you may want to use direct, rather than humorous, language.

Practise daily writing activities

According to Cara, writing daily journal entries or short entries are a way to develop fluency in your writing. This is another way to develop stronger connections between the neurons in your brain.

Spiral notebook, pencil shavings and a pencil
Can you think of an interesting daily short writing task?

Pexels CC: Tookapic

Identify your spelling mistakes

When writing on a computer, Cara suggests using a spelling and grammar check — either in a word processor or on websites.

Cara then advises writing your own list of words that you have misspelt. Your list may indicate that you regularly mistake a particular combination of letters and/or sounds.

'Rote learning', which involves memorisation and repetition, your own lists is the best way to improve your spelling, says Cara.

Reading can also be used in addition to rote learning:

Review and set targets

Learning writing skills is a process that takes time.

Cara recommends setting a "weekly language target" that is specific. It is important to be specific with your "language target": "if it’s too broad, you get lost in there and you can’t measure."

An example of a weekly language target could be to memorise five idioms that relate to the body.
As part of setting weekly targets, Cara advises also making time to review previous weeks' language targets. That way, you are constantly revising and reinforcing your language learning.

An out of focus handwritten checklist in a notebook and a hand holding a pen
Write your own language targets weekly and regularly review what you have practising.

Pixabay CC: StockSnap

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