writing skills

Writing means communicating one’s ideas clearly, fluently and effectively.  And writing in a foreign language is not that easy, as all of you know. Apart from elements like grammar rules, vocabulary, the interference of one’s mother tongue, spelling, knowing what to write, and how to organize it in a text, is a skill that requires a lot of practice. I know. And a lot of patience, too. Then some practice again. And so on.

Imagine you have just been given the title of a composition to develop (as some of you undoubtedly have ;-)).

The following are some tips to start working on your own and practise…

how to organize a written text

start from the title of the assignment: is it a familiar topic, do you like/dislike it, are you interested in/keen on it?

– if you find it useful, or if you are already used to it when writing in your mother tongue, write down a draft of  the main points you want to consider/develop in your writing.

organize your thoughts as clearly and logically as possible. Jot down single, simple sentences.

– give your thoughts a logical sequence and organize their development into a beginning, a central section and a conclusion.

– you may choose to start writing giving a definition of the topic, or use a quotation, a line of a poem, of a song, a joke, etc . This may add some freshness and originality to your writing. 🙂

– pause often and re-read what you have written. While you re-read your sentences, be ready to link them using connectives, i.e., “linkers“. (there is a list of linkers in the vocabulary builder section of this blog).

– use a simple and clear language, choose appropriate vocabulary and most of all do not translate from your mother tongue into English.

– never forget that you are not writing in your mother tongue. Do not let your mother tongue interfere with the structure of sentences, word order, grammar rules, lexical choices. Just be aware of it.

– ask yourself if your notes contain all the information you want to give about the topic. Do you need to know more? Do you need any more specific vocabulary?

– are you short of ideas? try asking yourself the 7 “wh” questions… who, what, which, where, when, how, why… some useful idea might come to your mind 😉

– last, but not least, revise your writing after you have finished. You might go through a sort of a checklist like the one below:

  • – are the paragraphs (and the information) organized in a logical order?
  • – is some information unnecessary in the text, or missing?
  • – have elements like prepositions, or articles, been used appropriately?
  • – are the words in the sentences in the correct order (e.g. adjectives before nouns, etc)?
  • – do all the verbs agree with their subjects?
  • – have the correct verb tenses been used? is the choice of verb tenses coherent?
  • – have all words been spelt correctly?
  • – is punctuation correct?

CREATIVE WRITING ACTIVITIES

“… he looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and Iff explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each coloured strand represented and contained a single tale…”


“… and because the stories were held here in the fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories…”

(from “Haroun and the Sea of Stories“, Salman Rushdie)

Experiment n°1: write a chain story

This is the story that some of you have tried to develop from the sentence:

It was Sunday, and there shouldn’t have been a letter in the mailbox, but there was

a little cat, pressed on the mailbox.. I approached the mailbox, the black cat with purple eyes run away but in the mailbox I found …. a cd by Jimi Hendrix entitled “Purple Haze” (wait, I’m joking)…. I found a sheet of paper on which a black cat with purple eyes was drawn and there was written……“when shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?” ah! I thought, someone with a love for Shakespeare. I tried to imagine who on my street owned a purple cat and a copy of Macbeth.
I decided to sleep on it and take action the next day. BUT! When I woke up…..… I discovered that the black cat with purple eyes wasn’t drawn on the sheet anymore but it was near the door and it was ready to lead me to its owner…

It’s a pity the story didn’t develop… anyway, thanks to Zakk, Ryder, Any and Sara C. for having tried 😀

Experiment n° 2 create a character for a story

Create a character for a story. Give as many details about him/her (name, age, personality, physical description, job, etc) as you can think of.

Experiment n°3 Tennis writing

Two people play this “writing game” that follows the rules of tennis… in the sense that one of you writes a sentence,  or a paragraph, or two paragraphs and then “passes” it to the other, who continues. And so on, and so on…

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