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49 Lessons I Learned About Writing in 10+ Years as a Non-Native English Writer

You, too, can become a non-native English writer in your adulthood

I started writing in English in my early 20’s. I’m 36 now. In over a decade, I’ve written blogs, articles, guides, academic papers, emails, webpages, reports, lesson plans, social media posts, and even a book in English.

I’ve also made writing part of my freelance work. Can you do that too?

Of course you can.

Here are some lessons I learned about writing in my second language in all these years. I hope you’ll find them helpful.

49 Lessons

1. Writing is thinking on paper. Want to start thinking in English? Write in English.

2. There’s more to writing than just grammar and vocabulary.

3. Using translators, dictionaries, grammar and vocabulary books helps you fill your language gaps.

4. Writing is more of a thinking process than anything else.

5. You can’t improve your English writing skills without reading in English.

6. You can’t improve your writing without writing.

7. There are no “secrets” (I hate this word so much) or shortcuts to improving your writing.

8. Reading books about writing won’t improve your writing. Applying what you read will.

9. Writer’s block is a myth.

10. You don’t need to have “advanced” English to write and publish your stories online. You need to have something someone needs to hear.

11. The simpler you write, the more your reader will like you. No need to obsess over fancy idioms or less common words.

12. If you’re not embarrassed by the way you used to write a year ago, that’s a sign your writing hasn’t improved.

13. There’s nothing you can’t write about.

14. Native English writers didn’t need to make an effort to learn English. That’s the only advantage they have over you.

15. You should judge your writing, not yourself.

16. If you want people to read your stuff, you must write for them, not for yourself. If you want to write for yourself, then you might as well not publish what you write. Keep a private journal instead.

17. You’re a writer because you write.

18. Reading the genre you want to write in will improve your writing skills in that genre.

19. Starting every sentence with a linking word has a bad impact on your text.

20. Writing is not a linear process. It’s recursive.

21. Start writing knowing you’ll be publishing an imperfect piece. This will save you time and headaches.

22. Often ideas will come as you type. So when you have no idea about what to write, choose a topic and simply start writing about it.

23. Writing one sentence per line will help you notice the length of your sentences so you can vary them accordingly.

24. Reading your text aloud is a free editing tool. Use it.

25. Use simple English, especially if you’re writing for an international audience.

26. Writing on paper and writing online require completely different formatting styles.

27. There’s nothing wrong with using AI to improve your writing.

28. You’ll never improve your writing if you use AI to write for you.

29. No online reader likes to read long paragraphs. In fact, they won’t even bother to read you if you write in long paragraphs. But if they read you because they have to, then they won’t like you.

30. Learning how to write a catchy headline is an essential skill if you want people to read your stuff online.

31. Writing a catchy headline doesn’t mean writing a clickbait one.

32. You can still write and publish an impactful piece without having great English. So don’t let your language proficiency stop you from publishing.

33. There’s nothing wrong in imitating other writers.

34. You must work on improving your English if you want to be a successful writer. Bad grammar makes your reader’s life harder. It’s not your fault. It’s a fact.

35. If you want to improve a specific aspect of your writing (e.g. punctuation), pay close attention to that particular aspect when you read.

36. Limited grammar and vocabulary force you to be creative.

37. Never use an English word you’ve recently learned to show how clever you are or how sophisticated your vocabulary is. Use that word because you need it to serve your reader.

38. Writing about yourself and your life is the easiest and most fun topic to write about.

39. You don’t need to have had an extraordinary life to tell a great story.

40. STORY is the acronym for Simple, True, Ordinary, Relatable, Yours. ( I came up with this a couple of years ago. Feel free to steal it).

41. Learning about the psychology and the art of storytelling will give you an advantage over any writer who knows little about storytelling.

42. You can publish daily without burning out.

43. If you want to be perfect all the time and publish daily, you’ll soon burn out and quit.

44. You don’t need to wait for inspiration to write. Simply begin whether you’re inspired or not.

45. Improving your conversational English is harder than improving your writing. You don’t need to have a “speaking” partner to improve how you write. You can write every day, anywhere, any time.

46. English language exams and courses might be expensive. But they do help you improve your writing.

47. You can make money from your writing. You can make it your part-time job, like I have.

48. Writing a book in your second language makes you proud. Once you’ve written one, you’ll want to write another.

49. Once you’ve become a confident writer, write about your journey so you’ll inspire more people to write.

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