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Nine rules for good English writing

By Matthew, October 01 2015, 07:57
Roco Julie via Flickr
Follow nine simple rules, and your English writing will improve immediately!

This is part two of the Poligo writing guide. In the last part, I talked about what is good writing, and I said there is no single rule for good writing. This point is important also because of it will help you use and understand this guide. There are very many ways of writing, and this guide will give you general ideas and suggestions for ways to improve and develop your own writing style. 

However, we can give you some general advice that will help you write better in English. Some of this advice may not apply to all types of writing, but you should think about all of these ideas as you write.

  1. Answer the reader’s questions: Your writing should, in general, not be mysterious. Make sure your writing does not make your reader wonder, “What is this about?” Every sentence you write, you should ask yourself, “What am I saying? What words or image can I use to express it clearly? Can I put it more shortly? Am I repeating myself or is this fresh information?”
  2. Give evidence: Support what you say with stories, numbers or facts. Use examples, information and data to tell me why you think what you think. Put another way, don’t just tell me, show me.
  3. Explain: Writing that does not explain and communicate is bad writing. Teach the reader your message step-by-step.
  4. Tell the whole story: There are two sides to every story. Make sure you writing talks about all sides—not just one.
  5. Re-write: No-one gets it right the first time. Write and then come back later. Read what you wrote, and then try again. Just ask yourself, “Can I say this better?”
  6. Practice: Writing well is a skill you can learn. It’s not a talent or a gift. Keep trying and you will get better and better.
  7. Be logical: Each sentence should flow into the next. Each paragraph should link to the next. There should be no jumps. Good writing has good structure, and each point is supported by the points before it.
  8. Plan: Think about what you are going to say. What is the point you are trying to make? Just like you need a plan to build a house, you need a plan to build a story.
  9. Make it simple: But not too simple. Your writing should be clear and easy to understand, and for that your thinking must be clear. Just imagine that your reader knows nothing, but don’t assume your reader is stupid.

These rules are just a starting point, and so is this guide to writing in English. You must use the ideas in this guide to practice your own writing. Pay close attention to the customized feedback you get from your teachers. It a valuable source of point-by-point advice on how to improve your own writing technique. 

In the next part, I will tell you how to learn to write.

  • Matthew's picture
    About me
    I am from New Zealand. I lived in Japan and Brazil for a long time, but now I am back home in Auckland. I am the founder of Poligo. I like to play guitar and video games and surf when I get the chance. I have a wife and two boys.
    I specialize in teaching English to professionals and English teachers. I have taught English since 2001 in Japan, New Zealand and Brazil. I speak Japanese & Portuguese. I am the founder of Poligo and The English Farm (an online school for business English).

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