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 both their language and culture. Native expressions do just that. There are two ways of getting a grip on them:
- The classical way is to read and take notes of whatever expressions you like. I do so by copy/pasting those expressions and sending myself text messages. I make sure I tag those messages to ease future searches.
- As for contextual translation while writing, Linguee and Deepl are the online resources that cover best my needs.
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. Learning process looks more of something like this:
As most social stuff, learning to speak a language happens through mimicry and 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 on 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 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…