Write better English

Writing tips for non-native speakers

English writing tips for non-native speakers

For non-native speakers, writing in English can be a challenge even when reading is relatively easy. Perhaps you have the following questions about writing in English:

  • How can I write better sentences?
  • How can I make my text sound more interesting and engaging?
  • Is it necessary to use complicated sentence structures?

A basic requirement for writing good English is mastering the structure of English sentences. Often, an attempt is made to first write the text in one’s native language and then "translate" it into English. This is not a good way and often leads to an unnatural word order. It is better to start right away in English. Let's take a look at ten tips to help you write better English.

How to write better sentences in English

1. Use appropriate verbs

Let's say your task is to write about what you did at the weekend. You could say:

  • I was at my friend's.
  • We were at a park.

However, this sounds a bit boring. It simply uses was/were. Using appropriate verbs can make these sentences sound more interesting.

  • I visited my friend.
  • We walked to a park.

2. Use adverbs and adjectives

  • We slowly walked to a quiet park.

An alternative to using an adverb plus a verb is to use a more fitting verb. For example:

  • We strolled to a quiet park

3. Include location and time information

  • We walked to a quiet park on Sunday morning.

But be careful! Don't make the sentences too complicated - so don't exaggerate. The sentence shouldn’t be needlessly long, as in the following example:


We slowly walked to an extremely quiet park early on Sunday morning.

4. Use more strong adjectives

Instead of adverbs such as "very/really" + adjective you can instead choose an extreme adjective. Here are some examples:


very big → huge

really clean → spotless

really dirty → filthy

very cold → freezing

very hot → scorching


You have hundreds of adjectives to choose from, so use one that hits exactly what you want to say. However, be careful not to overuse extreme adjectives - only use them when they are actually appropriate.

5. Make your sentences more alive

It was nice. → We were having a great time.

The weather was fine. → The sun was shining, but it was a bit windy.

6. Connect sentences sensibly with each other

The following three sentences:

  • The weather was fine.
  • We were at a park.
  • We went for a walk.

could of course be connected with and: → The weather was fine and we were at a park and we went for a stroll.


But this doesn't lead to better sentences. Connect the sentences a bit more logically, such as when actions have been completed:


→ The weather was fine, so we walked to a quiet park and went for a stroll there.

7. use active rather than passive expressions

For clear, precise texts, it is usually better to write actively than passively.


Passive: The man was bitten by the dog

Active: The dog bit the man


The active expression, The dog bit the man, is clearer and more engaging than The man was bitten by the dog


However, there are a number of good reasons to use the passive - for example, if you define firm rules or speak from a position of authority ("Children are not allowed to swim without an adult") or if you want to hide the subject of the sentence ("The cause of the noise was unknown") - but you should avoid formulating too many sentences in the passive.

8. Use and pay attention to idioms

Idioms are word combinations that are frequently used, even if another combination would be just as grammatically correct. They can be several words long or just be two-word phrases. Here are a few examples of some simple two-word idiomatic phrases:

Correct idiom Wrong idiom
heavy rain strong rain
buy time purchase time
tall trees high trees
fast cars quick cars

Many idioms are longer phrases and their literal meanings are often not so clear:

Idiom Meaning
A blessing in disguise  A good thing that seemed bad at first
Break a leg Good luck
Call it a day Stop working on something
Cutting corners Doing something poorly to save time or money
Get out of hand Get out of control
Hit the nail on the head Do or say something exactly right
It's not rocket science It's not complicated
Piece of cake A job or activity that's easy or simple
Under the weather To be ill
Your guess is as good as mine I have no idea

Examples of English idioms can be found easily online, so take a look!


After you have written your text in an interesting way using some of the above tips, it may be time to say hello to a thesaurus. You can replace those words you use too often with more interesting, appropriate or advanced alternatives. By avoiding overly common or simple vocabulary, your text will become more individual and sound more refined. But be careful not to overdo it! Your text should still be easy to read and appropriate for the intended audience.

10. Finally, read, read, read!

You've probably heard this advice before, but that's because it's so important! While reading you get to know new vocabulary, you often encounter interesting word choices, idioms, and beautiful phrases that you can integrate into your own texts. It doesn't matter what you read. It's about reading often and about a lot of different things. Novels, non-fiction books, blogs, newspaper articles, magazines - just read!

English proofreading

If you would like help with writing in English then please take advantage of my English proofreading services. I mostly concentrate on academic texts, especially in the fields of archaeology and earth sciences. I also take on other projects, such as websites and brochures. 


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