Using Academic Language to Improve English

There is a strong correlation between how well you know your native language and how well you can write in English – at least formally. In essence, being highly educated in one language will make it far easier to become proficient in the English language. The root of this is the academic language that is surprisingly common throughout the world languages. Take the word “academic”:

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here!

Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your adverbs here. Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, got some adverbs here. Come on down to Lolly’s, get the adverbs here! I’ll admit I’ve used it in the classroom more than a few times although I don’t know how much good Schoolhouse Rock really does to teach teenagers anything about the parts of speech. Don’t know what I’m talking about when I refer

Message to Non-Native Writers: Market Yourself, Not Your Country

I just spent more than thirty minutes looking for an example to use in this post. The original plan was to take a comment or sales thread from a popular internet forum and point out some areas where the English phrasing could be improved to make this series a bit more “real-world”. I’ve abandoned that plan for the moment because I noticed a bigger problem

Pronouns, Antecedents and Other Quirks

Here’s one you don’t think about all the time – do your pronouns match your antecedents? Consider the following sentence I used today in class: The squirrel attacked him, and he was frightened. Yes, yes – the old attacking squirrel trick. Subject aside, the pronouns are words like him and he. The antecedent in this case is the squirrel or an anonymous him. That’s the

Everyone Get Their Red Pen – This Is a Big One!

It’s easy to get frustrated with the complexities of the English language, especially when it becomes clear that many native speakers still struggle with certain words and phrases. How is a non-native speaker supposed to handle herself with the language when the supposed experts can’t? So native and non-native English speakers alike – be aware of this (very) common usage problems: “Their” means MORE than

Red Flags for ESL Writers

Those writers who speak English as their second (or third, or fourth) language can come from any country, culture or background, so everyone experiences different sorts of issues in their writing that stand out to native audiences. Believe me, the natives aren’t perfect either. Understand, of course, that native audiences aren’t always right, and they certainly aren’t perfect, but if you’re working for US-based clients

ESL Discrimination: Real or Ridiculous?

Non-native writers face discrimination online. Much of this negativity come for failing to write English “properly” – at least according to prospective clients. Looking been around various forums and markets, I’ve come across more than a few exclusionary advertisements about “native English speakers only” and such. Is there a reason so many jobs are asking for native English speakers only? Absolutely – and I’ll tell

Want to Improve Your English? Please Skip MTV

It’s a joke on too many shows these days that the alien or the foreigner learns English by watching MTV or the equivalent. It might have been marginally funny the first time, but it’s way past time for that joke to be over, and the underlying message is actually rather dangerous for those who are trying to sound like professionals. It’s hard to learn real

Writing a Screenplay (and Interview with Xandy Sussan) – Screenplay Ideas

You might have seen me mention this before, but I’m about to start on my first screenplay. If you’ve followed my blog(s) for a while, you might also remember that I let you follow along in my process to outline two novels (as a part of a process to compare different novel outlining / drafting methods). I’m planning to do the same with the screenplay

Simple Sentence Basics for ESL Writers

If you’re looking for an easy way to dress up your writing and to improve its readability in English, your sentences likely hold the answer. The fluent reader chunks text as she reads. This means that sentences should flow naturally as she’s reading and be easy to put together into sections or phrases. If the sentences are malformed or worded unnaturally, they become a challenge

Learning the Two Types of English

I’ve been certified as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher for at least six years (I’ve lost track of the official date on that certificate), and in that time I’ve worked primarily with those whose first language is Spanish. I’m not bilingual, which is a common misconception about ESL teachers. Instead I use special methods along with the English language to help students

How to Write Newsletters

Many people find it hard to believe that companies hire freelance writers to work on their weekly/monthly newsletter. Over the years I have received just as many offers to write newsletters as almost any other kind of work, excluding web content. At first, like many, I was not sure how this would work out. But over time, I began to enjoy writing newsletters and working

How to Write Feature Articles

One of the most lucrative projects for freelance writers is writing feature articles. Of course, this is not always true. There are some clients that don’t pay as much as the industry average; this is to be expected. But overall, I have found that writing feature articles is a great way to increase income while having a great time along the way. For the sake

Getting Started in Writing for Trades With Christa Miller

In this week’s installment of our “Getting Started” series, we’ll hear from Christa Miller on what it’s like to start writing for trade publications. One of my own favorite projects is ghostwriting client features for trades. Interested in breaking into the style, either ghosting or by-lined? Christa offers some tips help you get there. Here’s what she had to say: On How She Started Writing

Getting Started in Screenwriting with Xandy Sussan

Today in our “Getting Started” series, screenwriter / television writer Xandy Sussan stops by to talk to us about screenwriting. Whether you’re looking for a way to freelance in fiction or you simply want to pursue a screenplay or teleplay as a creative side project, there are some things you should know before jumping in. Here’s what Sussan had to say: On How She Started

Proofreading Tips for Web Writers

One of the biggest benefits of writing for the Web is the ease of publishing – you can write and publish almost instantaneously. Unfortunately, this instant gratification can lead to publishing in haste, errors unchecked. Therefore, when writing for the Web, it’s essential that you pay a bit of extra attention to proofreading – especially with client projects. Here are a few tips that won’t

Kristen King on Queries and Rejections

Continuing our series of short interviews with freelance writers, I picked the brain of Kristen King (of InkThinker) on the issues of queries and rejections: What motivated you to create the InkThinker Query Challenge? What’s the most rewarding aspect of it for you personally? I wish I had paid closer attention to my early thought process, because I can’t remember as much as I would

How Can I Work With Clients Who Can Barely Speak English?

This week’s reader question comes from Mariella on the writing forums, regarding a request she recently received for copywriting services through a forum private message system: “I’m guessing someone referred him to me, I just can’t get it out of him because he barely speaks English. If I’d ever ask a question for your blog Jenn, it would be how to deal with such clients.”

Weekly Writing Challenge: Write a Letter to the Editor

Writing a letter to the editor of a publication (newspaper, magazine, or even online publication) can have several benefits: Direct exposure / publicity Helps build your reputation as an authority source or expert on a subject Provides a networking opportunity between you and editors This week’s writing challenge is to start using this often-neglected publicity tool by submitting at least one letter to the editor