If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you would like to improve your writing skills in English. One of the first points to choose is whether to follow the US or the UK spelling conventions.
UK vs. US Spelling Conventions
In the United States, words such as travel and marvel, keep a single l when used in the past tense form of traveled, marveled and in the gerund form of traveling and marveling. In the United Kingdom, there is a double l, so it becomes travelled, marvelled and travelling, marvelling instead.
Another difference is the UK of ou vs. the US which uses o. So words in the UK are spelled as: honour, colour, etc. In the United States, the spelling would be honor and color and so forth.
A third difference is the use of the –re vs. –er. British spelling conventions follow the French tradition and we have spellings such as theatre, centre, metre, etc. In the United States, these would be theater, center, meter, etc.
A fourth difference is the use of –ise, -isation. For example: centralise, capitalise, memorise and centralisation, capitalisation, and memorisation, while in the US, these words would be written as centralize, capitalize, memorize and centralization, capitalization, and memorization.
Other Differences Between UK and US English
While all the above examples relate to spelling, there are many other differences as well. Spelling is only the beginning. The use of ‘have learnt’ in the UK and ‘have learned’ in the US is another example. There is also a myriad of word differences and expressions. For example in the UK, somebody can be described as stroppy and an individual might feel peckish. In the US that same person may be described instead as touchy and the other individual might feel a bit hungry. In addition, the definite article ‘the’ is used in a general way in the US, as in somebody is in the hospital. In the UK, it is usual to say somebody is in hospital, without using the definite article.
How do you choose which spelling convention to follow? The easiest is to consider your audience. If you live in the US then the US convention makes sense. In most other countries, the British convention is preferred. In some cases, you may be writing for both audiences, in which case choose the one you are most comfortable with and try to limit the use of expressions that have different meanings or aren’t common on both sides of the Atlantic.
Seven Useful Online Sources for Improving Your English Writing Skills
Once you’ve decided on which convention you prefer, the next thing to do is to reflect upon your writing ability in the English language. If you are not very advanced yet, you will want to use the sites and apps such as Hi Native and lang-8.com to work your way toward a more advanced level.
Another great site is the British Council which has some practice exercises at various levels in the beginner to intermediate range.
Once you reach an upper intermediate level of English, it is a good idea to write articles of 500 words or more regularly and to receive feedback from others about how to improve your writing. For those who enjoy practicing and displaying the writing in public, Yozzi.com is a useful platform. With Yozzi, you can send your article in, have it published, link to your social media profiles, video channels, websites and other relevant sites, and share the link to your article on social media and via e-mail to invite native speakers to provide feedback via the language learning platform.
You will want to take advantage of free courses that exist to help you improve your writing skills. One free course online is Alison. With Alison, you can easily follow the course called ‘English Writing Skills’ and go through the modules, which cover the following:
- Triggers for Writing
- Writing for an Audience
- Story Writing
- Comedy Writing
- Descriptive Writing
- Mystery, Spy and Science Fiction Writing
- Instructional Writing
- Poetry Writing
- Reflective Writing
At the end of the modules, there is an assessment where you will be able to answer multi-choice questions regarding the different styles of writing and language usage.
In addition to Alison courses, there is also an array of resources available online to help you improve your English writing skills. It’s a good idea to create time for yourself where you can regularly spend your time practicing your writing. You may need some inspiration regarding what to write about. Alison also provides ideas in its ‘Triggers for Writing’ module, which encourages you to write about emotions, your heroes, and ideals. The disadvantage with Alison is that you won’t have any teachers to provide you with feedback. That’s why sending your article into Yozzi.com for publication and sharing it via e-mail and social media to reach out to native speakers can be helpful for your to get feedback.
FutureLearn.com is one of my favourite sites when it comes to finding online courses. At FutureLearn classes rotate with different start dates. A typical course can last from three to eight weeks and you can pay to receive a certificate of completion at the end of the course. FutureLearn courses tie in with universities such as The Open University, The University of Sheffield, The University of Leeds, and the British Council. Keep your eyes out for the course called, “Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language Tests” offered by the British Council, which is offered on a rotationally basis.
There are also writing classes at Coursera, offering courses in creative writing, academic writing, English writing and essay writing from top United States’ universities such as Johns Hopkins, Stanford and Duke.
Here at Yozzi, most of the articles are written by non-native speakers. You can submit an article in your target language and and share it with natives who can help provide feedback to improve your writing. To help others with their writing skills, open an account at Yozzi and make suggestions on the articles you find here. See the about page to join Yozzi’s mailing list for updates about improving your writing skills.