ESL Writing Style
Your Personal "Voice"
One of the hardest problems an ESL writing student has is is developing and consistently using a writing style or "voice" that sounds natural and personal. The student may imitate a "textbook" as a good style model and end by being as uninteresting as most textbooks.
Using unfamiliar words produced by electronic translators or found in cross-language dictionaries and copying easily misunderstood idioms found in phrase books can often give the wrong impression. For many, just the limited amount of variety in their English reading experience can be a handicap.
There can be many difficulties in learning to write well in a new language but with a desire to communicate well, it can be done.
Joseph Conrad was one of the greatest 20th Century writers in English and is one of my favorites. He was born in the Ukraine in a Polish speaking family, learned French as a second language and learned English as an adult. Despite having a strong Polish accent all his life, his writing in English is known for his clear and personal style.
Develop Your Own Style
The central idea of writing is to communicate clearly and effectively. The best advice for doing this is to sound like yourself.
Make your writing personal and write the way you talk. Of course, writing should be a little more formal but it should still "sound" like you talking. Just a little less casually than you do with your friends. Using "wanna" and "gonna" instead of "want to" and "going to" are OK if you are writing dialogue in a story but not at other times.
Whenever possible, use the words and phrases that come to mind first. These are most likely closer to your intended meaning than the results given by a dictionary or an idiom picked from a book.
When you do use a dictionary or translator, reverse translate the word or check a second dictionary to make sure the meaning is what you intended
Choosing a longer, more obscure word instead of the common and easily understood short word will just mark you as a lover of long words.
Never imitate a writer on purpose but studying the style and word usage of someone you admire and enjoy can be a help.
Don't overwrite. Say what you mean as directly as possible to make it easily understandable.
Revise and rewrite. Don't be afraid to experiment with your organization and how you wrote. Pay attention to how clear and believable your writing is and your reader will thank you. This is what the best writers do and trying for the best is the way to achieve.
Get practical, useful information for students of writing and Learn English Online.
Finally, learn to use the tools and resources available here, at your library, and on your own writing desk to develop your own ESL writing style.
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