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Five key tips for writing to communicate in English as a second language

Drafting to Communicate

Writing to communicate in English, when it is a second language can be difficult, but as it is frequently considered a global business language, it is a worthwhile skill to possess – especially within the legal profession where language is often archaic with complex terminology yet must be conveyed to clients in a way they understand.

However, there are ways to improve your writing skills.

Below, we list our top five tips for improving your written communication:



1. Simplify your writing

Writing within a professional context requires concise and clear information to be conveyed to a second party, so simplify the process and your terminology.

Don’t be tempted to make sentence structure more complex than it needs to be and avoid adding convoluted terminology, unless absolutely necessary.

When writing in English as a second language it is easy to get ‘stuck’ searching for a particular word or phrase, and when you are in the flow of writing this can be disruptive. Instead of stopping, just write it in your native language and come back to it later.

Use tools such as a thesaurus to help find an alternative word when needed or use a dual-language dictionary for difficult to translate words.



2. Read in English

One of the most effective methods for improving your English language writing skills, is reading in English.

Read a British newspaper (or online news articles), take an English novel on holiday, read some English language legal blogs (excellent for additional tips too), or use English subtitles while watching a movie in English.

All this reading will help to enrich your vocabulary, give a greater understanding of sentence structure and grammar, expand your repertoire of words, and help you to nurture a natural and straight-forward conversational tone within your writing.

As an added bonus, you might discover a new favourite author or learn something fascinating!



3. Educate yourself

You’ll likely need to be able to write in English using a variety of mediums including email, letter, messaging systems, and so on, so it is important that you learn and understand the different techniques and structures involved in each medium.

It is well worth considering training options for learning additional English-language skills (both spoken and written forms) as this gives a greater understanding of the language and its correct application.

Courses such as our Drafting to Communicate, are really beneficial when looking to consolidate writing skills and language use in a business setting.


4. Learn to proofread and edit

All those who write must learn to proofread and edit their work – at best mistakes can be embarrassing or lead to confusion, but at their worse, they cause offence and convey the wrong information.

If you struggle to edit a longer piece of writing, ask for assistance from a native English-speaking friend or colleague, but always make sure you have read, and re-read, the piece to check for errors first.

It can be helpful to read your work out loud, as this will often pick out grammatical errors, and you can then highlight these sections (either on the screen or a piece of paper) to check and redo later.



5. Understand cultural nuance

English is a global business language which over time has tended to become combined with other native languages to create a kind of provincial patois which is only used within that region.

Be aware when writing that this regional difference may impact aspects such as word choice, grammar, sentence structure, and so on.

Try to ensure the correct language choices and be conscious of cultural nuances.

Pay particular attention to humour, spelling choices (UK English or American English), colloquial phrases, and use the appropriate tone or formality for the context.

Improvement comes with practice, so try to incorporate at least some of these tips into your daily writing routine, and make use of training which can help refine and hone your skills.

Enjoy the process of writing and learning new aspects of the English language which is constantly evolving and growing.