3 Tips to Improve Writing in English

Avoid Repetition to Improve Your Writing Skills

The most important rule to writing effectively is to not repeat yourself. Each of these three rules focuses on avoiding repetition in English.

Rule 1: Don't Repeat the Same Word

One of the most important rules in writing English is to avoid repetition. In other words, don't use the same words over and over again. Use synonyms, phrases with a similar meaning, and so on to 'spice up' your writing stile.

Sometimes, this is not possible. For example, if you are writing a report about a specific disease or perhaps a chemical compound, you will not be able to vary your vocabulary. However, when using descriptive vocabulary, it's important to vary your choice of words. 

We went on holiday to a ski resort. The resort was very beautiful with lots of things to do. The mountains were also beautiful, and, to be honest, there were also many beautiful people.

In this example, the adjective 'beautiful' is used three times. This is considered poor writing style. Here is the same example using synonyms

We went on a holiday to a ski resort. The resort was very beautiful with lots of things to do. The mountains were majestic, and, to be honest, there were also many glamourous people. 

Rule 2: Don't Repeat the Same Sentence Style

In a similar way, using the same sentence structure by repeating the same structure over and over again is also considered bad style.

It's important to know a variety of ways to make the same statement. This is often referred to as using equivalencies. Here are some examples of similar types of sentences using different equivalencies to vary the style.

  1. The students studied hard as the test was sure to be difficult.
  2. They reviewed the grammar in great detail due to the many exceptions.
  1. Sentence structure was reviewed, for it was sure to be on the test.
  2. As they had covered all the materials, the students were assured success.

In the four sentences above, I've used four different variations on 'because'. Sentences one and four use subordinating conjunctions. Note that the dependent clause can begin the sentence if followed by a comma. The second sentence uses a preposition (due to) followed by a noun phrase, and the third sentence uses the coordinating conjunction 'for'.  Here's a quick review of these forms:

Coordinating Conjunctions - also known as FANBOYS. Combine two simple sentences with a coordinating conjunction preceded by a comma. Coordinating conjunctions can NOT begin a sentence. 

Examples

The weather was very cold, but we took a walk.
She needed some extra money for her vacation, so she found a part-time job.
The toy was broken, for the boy had thrown it against the wall.

Subordinating Conjunctions - Subordinating conjunctions introduce dependent clauses. They can be used to begin a sentence followed by a comma, or they can introduce the dependent clause in the second position without using a comma.

Examples

Though we need to review the grammar, we decided to take the day off for some fun.
Mr. Smith hired a lawyer as he needed to defend himself in court.
We'll take car of the problem when John returns.

Conjunctive Adverbs - Conjunctive adverbs begin a sentence linking it directly to the sentence before. Place a comma directly after the conjunctive adverb.

Examples

The car was in need of repair. As a result, Peter took the car into the repair shop.
It's very important to study grammar. However, knowing grammar doesn't necessarily mean you can speak the language well.
Let's hurry up and finish this report. Otherwise, we won't be able to work on the presentation.

Prepositions - Prepositions are used with nouns or noun phrases NOT full clauses. However, prepositions such as 'due to' or 'despite' can provide a similar meaning to a dependent clause. 

Examples

Just like our neighbors, we decided to put a new roof on our home.
The school decided to fire the teacher despite the students' protest.
As a result of poor attendance, we'll have to repeat chapter seven.

Rule 3: Vary Sequencing and Linking Language

Finally, when writing longer passages you'll be using linking words and sequencing to connect your ideas. As in word choice and sentence style, it's important to vary the linking language you use. For example, there are many ways to say 'next'. If you are providing instructions, try to vary the words you use to take someone through each step in the process. 

Instead of writing:

First, open the box. Next, take out the equipment. Next, insert the batteries. Next, turn the device on and begin work.

You could write:

First, open the box. Next, take out the equipment. After that, insert the batteries. Finally, turn the device on and begin work.

This is a just a short example to give you an idea. Try to vary the sequences, or linking language you use in each paragraph. If you use 'first, secondly, thirdly, finally' in one paragraph, switch it up and use 'to begin with, next, after that' in another paragraph.

Follow the links in this article to study each of these variation types in more depth and you will quickly improve your writing style through variety.