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7 Basic Rules of English Writing Even Natives Tend to Forget

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Basic Rules of English Writing Even Natives Tend to Forget

Writing is difficult for many people and there is no doubt that writing in a new language can be difficult but there are tricks to learn a new language quickly and efficiently. Writing in English is two times more difficult for ESL students from China, UAE, or Korea. Language barrier combined with tough academic requirements – which are way different from local demands – result in a poor academic performance of international students.

On the other side, native speakers also struggle with written assignments and make numerous mistakes too. Lauren Bradshaw from helps both native and international students master the writing skills. She identifies the following rules that both categories of students should follow.

Rule #1. Use a Formal tone of voice

Sometimes students forget to write academically. This means that they use informal language, simple vocabulary, and slang. In academic writing, it is necessary to use a formal tone of voice. You cannot use “I”, and should not use informal words such as “like”, ”stuff”, ”things”, etc. Remember: you are writing in English for your professor, not for your friend.

Rule #2. Have Good Grammar

Having good grammar, and checking it before handing in your assignments, is the skill that can always be worked on and improved. Native speakers think that they already know it all, but they don’t. The way to write things correctly is something that has to be learned. There are many grammar mistakes that are made by all students. Try your best to avoid them.

Lauren Bradshaw advises paying particular attention to the use of prepositions, articles and auxiliary verbs. ‘These are the typical stumbling points of ESL students,’ she points out. ‘Also, double check the correct usages of tenses and idiomatic expressions. If misused, they will leave you no chances of a good mark.’


Rules every English Writer should follow

Rule #3. Be Consistent in Style

It can be hard to keep track of the style you need for each class, but you need to remember in order to write successfully. Some teachers will ask for MLA, others APA, and others still prefer Chicago. Make sure it stays the same in your paper!

Rule #4. Use Words you know

Often, ESL students like to use a thesaurus or to copy a big word or fancy word that they don’t really know. When this is done, it’s very obvious. Although you want to sound knowledgeable, it is better to use words you are familiar with in order to follow this rule.

Lauren adds, ‘In an attempt to impress a teacher and avoid repetitions, students use sophisticated vocabulary. There’s nothing bad about it, as long as you know the meaning of words and use them in the correct environment. Erroneous, salient, caustic – these are great examples of adjectives to puzzle your teacher, not impress.’

Rule #5. Be Clear

Speaking of trying to be fancy, don’t try to write long complex sentences that don’t directly say what you mean. You want to be clear. Say what you mean and try to avoid abstract concepts. You will be easier understood in your writing if you do this. Every sentence should have a purpose and be a clear statement.


Tips for formal writing

Rule #6. Use the Active Voice

Although there are good situations that call for using the passive voice, unless you are completely sure, it is advisable that you use the active voice because it is less vague. This goes hand in hand with the above-mentioned rule of being clear.

Rule #7. Do it All the time!

Perhaps the most important rule that is forgotten is that writing is a skill. It needs to be done all the time if you want to get any better. You can’t just write your assignments and think you will do well. Spend the time to do it right and find ways to write for fun if you are serious about doing well.

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