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Shatter the Myths - Don't insist on using complex vocabulary and sentence structures

You have been learning English for many years and you feel that your listening, speaking and reading abilities are pretty good. However, when you lift up your pen or sit in front of the keyboard to write a letter or essay in English, you find you get stuck and don't know what to write. Laurence James, Head of Corporate Training at British Council, discovered that many Taiwanese students may be mired in myths when it comes to English writing. Some feel the need to use long and complicated words with multiple syllables, the passive voice, and long and complex sentence structures. In fact, using complex grammar inappropriately can lead to many errors and cause confusion. Read your writing out loud when it is complete. If the meaning is clear and the style smooth, then you are on the right track!

How can I use limited vocabulary and grammar to compose a clear and straightforward piece of writing?

Laurence offers three practical tips.

  1. Use short sentences and conjunctions such as 'however', 'furthermore', and 'nevertheless' appropriately to make your writing more cohesive. 
  2. The combination of words is also a skill. For example, 'come to a conclusion' or 'arrive at a conclusion' sound more fluent than 'make a conclusion'. If you immerse yourself in an all-English environment, and practise reading and writing frequently, you will naturally understand how to do this.
  3. Before you send out an important email or give a presentation, ask two of your colleagues to act as your audience and give you suggestions. You can also read your writing out loud a few times. If you find that it does not flow very well, it probably means that the meaning you wish to express is not clear, and you need to re-write it.

English writing is not as difficult as you think. All you need to do is to start practising and writing! The British Council myClass for adult learners allows you to choose your preferred conversation or writing topics. We have a wide selection of writing topics including: professional English CV, business correspondence, and analysis of complex data etc. You will have in-class opportunities to practise specific techniques, vocabulary and sentence structures for writing different text genres, and you will receive prompt feedback and suggestions from your teacher.

Laurence points out that people are generally passive during the English learning process. They sit through classes without speaking, and take notes without interacting. This is the reason they become stuck when it comes to writing. But in the professional myClass environment, this situation is completely revolutionised. Learners now take an active role, and passive learning is transformed into active language learning through lively classes that cultivate a renewed interest in reading.