How would you react if a french speaking friend told you that you are doing fine with your written… English?
That’s the feedback I got a while back and I was quite happy with it… not being a native English speaker myself. In fact, it’s my 3rd language.
Then someday a friend advised I installed Grammarly and bang there was the shock! I had multiple mistakes all over my articles I didn’t even notice. It opened my eyes, and I said to myself I needed to make my reviewing process more bulletproof.
So I searched the web for help and stumbled across practical tools to do just that. Here are my picks based on the below objectives:
- Use native expressions.
- Exploit a large vocabulary range.
- Avoid common grammar, syntax & spelling mistakes.
- Be clear.
Fortunately, the internet had all the answers. 🙂
Use native expressions
Communication specialists know it, a good way to connect with foreigners is to use idioms that characterize their language and culture. Native expressions do just that. Here are the tools I use depending on the need:
Case 1: if I know the expression in some language and look for the English equivalent, Linguee is the go-to option.
Case 2: if I’m looking for an idiom with a specific word in it, I would head to theidioms.com and type the aimed word in the search bar.
Case 3: for longer translations, I would use Deepl. Although I’m satisfied with the result most of the time, it is not as precise as Linguee but the latter can’t translate complex sentences properly.
Enlarge your vocabulary
That one helps a lot too and is pretty straightforward. I head to thesaurus.com and type whatever word I want a synonym of. It provides a list of substitutions taking the context and frequency of use into consideration.
Avoid common grammar, syntax & spelling mistakes
Both native and non-native speakers learn languages at school. This is not how humans learn languages. The learning process looks more of something like this:
As with most social stuff, learning to speak a language happens through mimicry and a feedback loop. School only consolidates what we already know and makes a few adjustments when needed.
That’s why I’m a fan of Grammarly. Just write whatever you have in your mind, it underlines in red the weird stuff and suggests a better way. Whether it is a spelling, grammar, or syntax mistake. It’s there to save you and help you improve.
Polishing for clarity
Then comes the great Hemingway but not Ernest 🙂. I’m referring to the web-app hemingwayapp.com. You can either write directly on the frame or copy/paste your text for reviewing. It gives all sorts of inputs going even further than Grammarly. You get comments about, sentence length, clarity… It’s the ultimate electronic polishing before sending your content over to friends you trust for review.
A few more pieces of advice I got on writing
- Be as concise as you can, hemingwayapp.com will help challenge you in that regard.
- Use a conversational style. It’s much easier to go through and maintains readers’ attention.
- Avoid complex vocabulary, both Linguee and Thesaurus can help. One and the other offer a usage ranking. The rule is simple, the more usage, the more natural it will sound. So make sure you pick up the top of the list words before considering less common options hoping to sound savvy.
So you’re all set. Give it a try. This writing stack is nothing complex but still requires a few iterations to become second nature.
If you tried tools that helped you out, please let the community know by commenting. Hopefully, the (right) word will spread and…