Strategies for improving writing in English

Learning English focuses on four main skills; reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Many students consider writing to be particularly difficult. Students hesitate in writing and lack confidence in this skill area. Many students worry that their ideas aren’t good enough or the words they are using aren’t correct. However, there are strategies to practice and improve writing skills both in class and outside of class.

Quick Writes

If you find it very difficult to start writing or come up with ideas, it could be useful to find short topics or questions and just practice writing for five to ten minutes without stopping. The main idea is to keep writing without stopping and not worry about spelling mistakes or grammar. It is recommended to use a timer to time yourself for five to ten minutes in order to avoid stopping. If students do “quick writes” every day, they will see an increase in written fluency and creativity in coming up with ideas in a less pressured way. The following site has a list of writing topics that might be useful as quick writes:

Attempting different types of written discourse

Students often face different types of writing tasks in class or everyday life. These tasks could be anything from emails, blog, a short story, essays and so forth. It is important to understand that each type is different and requires different language such as formal or informal English. Therefore students can start out by looking at an example of the type of writing they want to write. Then they should come up with a list of words or ideas related to their topic. Initial brainstorming of ideas and vocabulary helps students start thinking about the topic further. It is also useful to brainstorm with a friend or classmate in case the topic is quite challenging.

Next, come up with an outline or plan to make the actual writing process easier. By having a plan, it makes it easier to imagine what will go in each paragraph or section. After having written a first draft, it is useful to re-read and circle any mistakes that you might have made.

Editing your own work will help you understand your mistakes in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure and make your aware of them when you write in the future. An experienced writer or teacher can give further feedback and provide useful insight on ideas, language, and grammar.

There are many useful examples and writing prompts for different writing tasks on the main British Council Site. The site also has prompts to practice these tasks.

Here at the British Council we support students in developing writing skills both inside and outside of the classroom that will equip you for exams and beyond. To learn more about our Young Learners programme visit