Saturday, October 4, 2014

How to write better English

Many friends often ask me how to write better English. To me better English is the one which that makes sense. Instead of giving them a lecture every time, I have decided to write a post on it. Below are the rules to follow.

Simple is the best:
What is simple and easy to write is easy and simple to read. The best writing is the one needing a little or no consulting a dictionary.

Short is super:
Small words and sentences are better than long words and sentences. Remember the last time, when you had to read a long sentence many times but still it failed to make sense.

Hate old vocabulary:
Don’t use words that your grandfather used in his high school. Modern vocabulary is the one which is used in magazines and newspapers (except Dawn Newspaper in Pakistan). A 100-year-old man is easy to understand if he is not a centenarian.

Accurate articles:
The correct use of a, an, and the makes your writing 80 percent meaningful. 

What to read and what not to read:
Writing good English trains you to write good English. The more you read, the better you write.

  1. What to read (priority wise): Reader’s Digest, Time, Newsweek, Novels
  2. What not to read (in no particular order): Opinions in newspapers, Editorials, Dawn newspaper. First two are written by people who write for themselves and not for readers. Dawn newspaper is staffed by the people who edit news for themselves and not for the readers.

Build your vocabulary:
Make a habit of noting down new words and their meanings from the Oxford Advanced Leaner’s Dictionary (Rs 3500/-). If you develop a vocabulary of around 400 active words, you face no problem in expressing yourself on paper (the last four words meant writing).

Grammar issues:
1.      Wren and Martin (basics, Rs 200 or less).
2.      Raymond Murphy (reference book for normal use, Rs 200 or less).
3.      Oxford Practical English Usage (reference book for advance usage, Rs 1500 or less).
Use them in the order mentioned. They are easily available from any good book store. Wren and Martin; and Raymond Murphy grammar books are sufficient resources for writers. Oxford Practical English Usage is good if you are an editor or critique.

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