Advice for ESL Writers

Advice for ESL Writers

English can be tough. Unlike many Eastern languages, English places great emphasis on seemingly minor aspects of written communication. Yet, by paying careful attention to the finer points of the language, a writer can create interesting subtleties and nuances that would not otherwise be possible.

One of the problems for non-native writers of English, of course, is that there are exceptions to every rule (for example, i before e except after c). The solution? Learn the rules, by rote, by practice, or by whatever works. There is no other way. In time, you’ll find yourself remembering them.

Also, Americans have a great penchant for colloquialisms and slang. We are a very diverse nation, and we borrow from every culture. Colloquial references to pop culture and sports are particularly problematic to those not familiar with them.

Prepositions and articles seem to be the main source of confusion, though. And unlike acquainting oneself with references to bygone TV shows, learning the proper way to use “a” and “the” is not that hard.

Without getting too technical, let’s look at a couple of examples:

  • RIGHT: We will go to the store.
  • WRONG: We will go to store.

Without the word “the,” the whole meaning of the sentence is changed. The word “store” actually becomes a verb.

  • RIGHT: It is on Broadway Street.
  • WRONG: It is on the Broadway Street.

The preposition “the” is not required here, since there will be only one Broadway Street in any town.

  • RIGHT: I need a doctor.
  • WRONG: I need doctor.

Yes, the article “a” is necessary here—it is important. Interestingly, Microsoft Word does not flag “I need doctor” as being incorrect—but it should.

There are ESL software, courses, and instruction available. In the meantime, until one becomes better acquainted with the intricacies of the English language, there is no shame in using a professional editing service.