We all have to write more English text than we prefer at one point or another. That could be redoing your CV and cover letter or just conversing with your colleagues via email. Everyone has their strong suits. You may be great at math or science and hate writing. That’s fine. But if you want to improve your English writing, then read this blog post. I am a freelance writer and editor, so the English language is my life. I live and breathe it.
The Simpler, the Better
This is probably one of the top tips I share with people. Use simpler words and sentences. Do not overcomplicate it. Doing that will only make it harder for you to write and harder for non-native English speakers to understand what you’re trying to say. Most of the time, people aren’t judging you for your word choice. But they will let you know if the text is so complicated that they can’t understand it.
I can give you an example of this. Recently I was reading the English version of the Dutch driving theory exam book. I was so shocked to see how difficult it was to read. The book used very difficult words and ridiculous sentence structure. In addition, the book mixes British and American English, which makes it so much harder to understand.
I was so frustrated when reading it that I sent the book publisher an email. In my email, I explained that it was so difficult to read. I am a native English speaker, and it was hard to read. I can’t imagine how much harder it is for non-native speakers.
Before you send any text to anyone, whether that be an email or CV, read the text out loud. Reading the text out loud instead of in your head can help you catch a lot of mistakes. When doing this, you’ll be able to clearly hear what doesn’t make sense and see what was misspelled. This is the first thing I do when reviewing any text.
Don’t Rush Sending It
Do not send anything right away if you can. Most of our writing mistakes are made because we are typing fast and don’t always realize what we are writing. So instead of hitting send, sleep on it or even give it a few hours. Then go back to the text with a fresh mind. Read it out loud and fix your mistakes. You can even do this a second time if you want.
Do Not Directly Translate
If English isn’t your first language, do not translate anything directly from your language into English. I work with many foreigners who need me to edit text for them. I often see them directly translate expressions or sentences from their language into English. This will almost always come out incorrect. Instead, avoid using expressions or slang. Focus on simple words and simple sentences. Do not overcomplicate things.
Never Ever Copy & Paste
Never ever copy and paste from Google translate. Just don’t do it. There is nothing wrong with using it as a tool. But Google translate doesn’t always translate things correctly. It also doesn’t understand the context.
So instead of copying and pasting, rewrite the sentence in your own words in English based on what it translated the original sentence to. I cannot emphasize enough that you should never just copy and paste. I’ve seen it done many times, and it usually does not make much sense.
Be Patient and Do Your Best
We all make mistakes. Even as a native English-speaking writer and editor, I make mistakes. My foster dad studied English and practiced law for many years but still made mistakes. Just do your best. That is all that matters. If you feel embarrassed to write and speak in English, just remember that the person judging you the most is yourself.
Most people just appreciate that you try. So do that; just give it a try. This is especially true if you’re a foreigner working in the Netherlands. Because most people like that work in English-speaking companies and English-speaking jobs. You’ll probably have to speak and write in English at one point or another.
If you need help with your CV, blog posts, website content, etc., send me an email so we can discuss working together. I’d love to help you out!
What aspect of English writing do you struggle with the most?