This week we’re going to go through a four-step method to improving your writing. This is helpful not only for TOEFL writing, but improving general writing skills. It’s even helpful for native speakers—these are some of the most important steps for writing improvement in general. I even used most of this system myself when studying writing through high school and college.
The first step to improving your writing isn’t practicing on your own (although that is also extremely important). The first step is learning from others. If you want to write well, it’s important that you read a lot, so you can use the styles of other writers in your own writing.
But while you read, keep in mind that you are not simply reading for pleasure. You are trying to learn what good English writing looks and sounds like, so you need to analyze what you read. Think carefully about the language; why did the author use the words, phrases, and structures that he or she did?
The simplest way to tie your reading into writing practice is to summarize what you read. Of course, I mean summarizing on paper, not in speech. This gives you an opportunity to use the same language as the author in your own writing. I don’t mean you should directly copy what you read, though. Do it from memory, without looking at the text you read. But try to include some of the words, phrases, and structures that were in the original text. That helps you learn and remember the language of the text, and it gives you a way to edit your writing after by checking the original passage.
Review Grammar Rules
If you don’t know the rules, you will break them. Knowing grammar rules is key.
But really improving requires more than just studying the rules; you also need to use them. After you review a grammar concept, try to use it in the next piece that you write—possibly in a summary of a text you read.
Always save your writing so you can edit it later. Editing is possibly the most important step for improving your writing. It is the best way to see your mistakes, and only after you see your mistakes can you correct them. And remember that your writing is never perfect. You can always edit more! That’s especially true after you have just studied some grammar rules; looking for related grammar errors in your writing is a great way to practice, and you can return to anything you’ve written in the past, even if it has already been edited once or twice.