How to Write Well When English is Your Second Language

As writers, we all want to succeed. No matter what our mother tongue is, we all have dreams and aspirations.

We want that gig that pays from $150 to $300 per article, and we dream that clients will approach us to write for them instead of us doing the tough work of pitching.

When English is your second language, how do you excel and write like it’s your first?
The first thing you want to do is to get rid of the notion that it is not your first language.
True, it is not, but avoid over-focusing on that fact.
Just look at a language like something anyone can improve on. Hey, I never planned to learn Spanish. -But surrounded by Spanish speakers, I find I am getting better every day. So language is a learned skill and can be improved upon.
Remember, no one will hire you out of sympathy. Your client wants you to write well like anyone else -if they plan to pay you a decent amount.
Let me share some things I’ve learned along my journey that helped me improve my writing.

Read a lot
To illustrate what I mean, I’ll tell you about an exam I once had to do.
There was this licensing exam I needed to take for me to get employment.
The way American exams are set is quite different from my native country Kenya. Many international students fail this particular exam several times because they don’t prepare enough.
Registering for the exam is expensive, and every time you fail, you have to pay afresh before you re-sit. So I was determined I would pass on my first trial.

A good friend said, “Joy, you need to do a minimum of 5,000 test questions before you attempt that exam.”
Guess what; I did 10,000 test questions; It paid off because I passed highly. As a writer, always go the extra mile.
To become a good writer, you first need to be an avid reader. Read a minimum of one book a month. This does not include the several blog posts you need to read.
In fact, you will do well to read two books a month. -Always go a step further.

Engage with other writers
Join healthy writers groups. A lot of the books I buy are usually recommended by writers I meet in groups. Good writing groups can be resourceful and are good at giving you honest feedback.
When you join a group, don’t be selfish. Some people are what I call takers. They sit quietly and gather all the information but never contribute.
Be generous and contribute to your group because you will build relationships. Those relationships will come in handy when you begin to advance in your writing career.


Look out for filler words
Our languages have a lot of different words and sounds, and we tend to carry them in our writing; for example,
“Nevertheless, in a similar vein, notwithstanding, I quite like what they are talking about!”
This sentence could simply read; “I like what they are saying.”

Don’t sound repetitive and lifeless
One weakness writers who English is their second language have is the temptation to sound dead and put everyone to sleep. For example, this is a newspaper article; “The state government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, with the Lee Group to allocate land to the Company to set up a sugarcane Plantation with a view to setting up a Sugar factory.”
-And did you notice capital letters popping out here and there?







Avoid writing very long sentences

Long sentences will put the reader to sleep.
For example, “The News at six o’clock reported that the deceased had all his intestines gushed out in the process due to the ultimate severity of the accident with his body being deposited at the Saint Francis the Second Hospital morgue at Austin Goya for the autopsy.”
Digesting the meaning of this sentence is difficult.
Shorter sentences make more sense.

Here is a book I recommend.


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16 thoughts on “How to Write Well When English is Your Second Language”

    1. Thanks Mirriam.
      As long as you filled in your details in the Job Tab, you will definitely get job alerts, you can decide if you want them daily or weekly.

  1. Thumbs up, have found this useful in developing my English. Hope this will lead me through to success. I need more of this. Feel free to send me such blogs via my email.

    1. Welcome Kevin and thanks for the compliment.
      I will always share the posts as long as you are a subscriber.

    1. Anne. You will improve because you want to.
      You have the right attitude. Keep reading & writing, and your skill will improve.

  2. Hello,this is encouraging. I’m a newbie and thirsty for more knowledge in writing. Looking forward for a job to develop my writing skills

  3. Thanks. I will definitely put these tips to use. My biggest challenge is reading a lot. I think reading articles and content on good websites will help us keep up to date with new buzzwords or catchphrases that might be relevant to our target clients!

    1. So true Marilyn.
      As a writer, using the relevant buzzwords is important because it makes your writing stand out.

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