10 Activities to Improve Your English Writing [Self-Study Guide #2]

Published on
November 12, 2022
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Updated on
November 15, 2022
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10
min read
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Written by
Emile Dodds

Are you looking for ways to practise your writing, but you have no teacher and no idea where to start? This guide will give you ten great ideas for writing activities that you can do on your own… today!

10 Activities to Improve Your English Writing [Self-Study Guide #2]
Table of contents

Note: This is the second of a series of guides covering self-study activities. You may also be interested in other other guides on listening, reading, speaking, grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation.

We realise that studying English can be frustrating when you need to do it on your own. The Internet offers so much content, but it can be difficult to know where to start or what to do.

To help, we’ve written this guide with 10 short activities that will help you improve your English writing. 

Like in our guides on listening, reading and speaking, these activities are ordered from easy to difficult. 

How to approach writing practice

Most people know that the best way to practise speaking is by… speaking. It doesn’t matter if you have someone to check you or not.

We can take exactly the same approach to writing. Maybe you are used to submitting school essays to a teacher and receiving corrections, but this is not always necessary. All that is needed is that you have an interesting way to practise.

Getting ready to practise writing

Where and how should you write?

I recommend either buying a notebook especially for your writing practice or simply using a laptop and your favourite word processor (Google Docs, Microsoft Word etc.).

You could also try starting a blog, you could use a private online journal, or you could email yourself every day.

However you do it, keep a collection of your writing, so you can see how you improve over time.

Easy activities

Activity 1 - Dear Diary

Our first activity is to write a simple diary entry at the end of your day.

You could write 100-200 words on the following:

  • The best thing that happened today
  • An unusual thing that happened today
  • Something important that you learned today
  • What would make tomorrow a great day

Remember to pay attention to your narrative tenses!

Skills: Writing, Grammar (narrative tenses)
Tools: Diary, notebook or journal
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

Activity 2 - Be the critic

Have you ever wanted to be a critic and get paid for giving your opinions on restaurants, movies and books? Well, here’s your chance! (Except, of course, you won’t get paid.)

Simply choose a TV show, movie, book, restaurant or video game that you have experienced recently and write out a review on it.

I recommend writing 100-200 words, including the good points, the bad points, your overall impression and what you have learned from it.

For examples that you can follow, I recommend the site Goodreads, which features short reviews of books. Each one is written by a user of the site and they are generally 100-200 words long.

This is an activity that you can do once per week. Look back over the week and think about what you can review.

You could take this activity online by leaving your review on a site like Goodreads. Google also offers the chance to review nearby restaurants and places. Finally, there’s Trip Advisor, which you can use to review restaurants, hotels and sightseeing spots.

Had a good (or a bad) meal at a restaurant recently? Write a review of it in English!

Skills: Writing, analytical writing
Tools: Journal or various websites
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Easy

Medium-level activities

Activity 3 - Complete the story

Let’s try some creative writing. Your challenge is to complete a story using one of the ten prompts below, and then post it in your journal. This can help you to practise expressive writing techniques.

How long should your story be? That’s up to you! But let’s try for at least 200 words.

Prompt 1: A cowboy walked into a crowded saloon. The people in the saloon turned and gasped. It was Jake the Kid, the most dangerous man in Texas!

Prompt 2: Sally watched as George got on the bus, but was disappointed when he didn’t sit next to her. One day, she planned, he would belong to her!

Prompt 3: Julio always used to laugh at people who believed in ghosts. But, one day, something happened that changed his mind.

Prompt 4: Hank dreaded going to work. His boss and his coworkers bullied him and made him cry, then laughed at him. Well, he decided, today was going to be different!

Prompt 5: The King of Ankhazastan lived a life of wealth and luxury until a wicked witch put a spell on him. He woke up one day in the body of a peasant!

Prompt 6: Paola heard a knock on the door. Upon answering it, she was astonished to find three aliens standing there!

Prompt 7: Auntie Hilda was the worst witch that ever lived. Her spells were always going wrong! One day, a man came to ask about a love potion…

Prompt 8: One day, Billy was walking along the beach when he saw a strange teapot in the sand. He picked it up and was surprised when a magic spirit appeared from the spout and offered him two wishes.

Prompt 9: Walter was a very normal-looking guy with a boring job and a boring life. At least, that’s what everyone thought. They didn’t know that he was actually a skilful bank robber!

Prompt 10: One day, a large black cat suddenly appeared at Peter’s house and wouldn’t leave. Then, another appeared, and another! By the afternoon, there were more than 50 cats at his house!

Skills: Writing, creative writing
Tools: Journal, blog or Facebook page
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 4 - Writing with idioms

The next activity is to write another short story or anecdote, but this time using idioms as prompts.

Simply choose one of the five sets of idioms, use a dictionary to find the meanings of any you don’t know, and then write a story using all three idioms in the set.

50-200 words is recommended for this activity.

Set 1: pain in the neck, caught red-handed, a piece of cake

Set 2: chill out, deep pockets, in the red

Set 3: jump on the bandwagon, mumbo jumbo, playing with fire

Set 4: the life of the party, under the weather, out of the blue

Set 5: the sky's the limit, time flies, no time like the present

Skills: Writing, creative writing, vocabulary (idioms)
Tools: Journal, blog or Facebook page
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 5 - Writing a dialogue

Writing dialogues is a great way to practise English. After all, dialogues are a way to practise spoken English, but in written form. They force you to think about expressing yourself naturally in English.

Movie and TV scripts are a great way to see examples of dialogues.

Just like the story-writing activity, start with one of the prompts below. Think about writing five to ten turns of dialogue.

Dialogue 1:

Julia: Who was that woman that I saw you with this afternoon?
George: That was… er… my sister!

Dialogue 2:

Big Al: Is this your first day in prison?
Nigel: Yes, and I’m so scared!

Dialogue 3:

Harry: Susan, I love you! Will you marry me?
Susan: Well… I’d love to, but there’s one problem.

Dialogue 4:

Prime Minister: Cabinet members, our economy is going down the toilet! Does anyone have any ideas on how to save it?
George: Yes, Prime Minister. I have an idea!

Dialogue 5:

Lloyd: Harry, when are you going to pay me back that $1000 you owe me?
Harry: Well…

Dialogue 6:

Thomas: Jane, my love, I have decided to join the army and fight in the war!
Jane: What? No, I won’t let you!

Dialogue 7:

Policeman: Mr. Frank Edwardson? You’re under arrest.
Frank: Why? What have I done?

Dialogue 8:

Dave: Have you heard the latest gossip about the boss?
Sally: No! Please tell me!

Dialogue 9:

Wong: Master, will you teach me your secret Kung Fu techniques?
Master Chan: Perhaps. But first you must prove that you are worthy.

Dialogue 10:

Mr. Jenkins: Thanks for attending this interview. Now, why do you think you would be a good clown?
Perky: Well, first of all, I’m very funny!

Skills: Writing, creative writing
Tools: Journal, blog or Facebook page
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 6 - Two-way translation

Two-way translation is an interesting technique that you can read about here.

In this short activity, you will first need to visit bbc.com or another news website and choose an interesting news article. If news isn’t your thing, you could choose an article from the culture section.

Next, translate the article into your own language.

The third step is to translate it back into English. You can try doing this the following day (so you don’t end up memorising parts of the original article) or on the same day.

When you compare your “retranslated” article to the original article, you will have a chance to compare the two. You shouldn’t expect them to be the same, word for word, but your goal is to use natural and correct English. Seeing them side-by-side can help you analyse your translation for accuracy and fluency.

Skills: Writing, grammar, fluency
Tools: bbc.com or a similar site
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 7 - I’m so great!

In this activity, you will write a description of yourself - using only positive words!

Try to write at least 100 words including at least five of the following adjectives.

amazing, fantastic, gorgeous, wonderful, talented, remarkable, fascinating, superb, magnificent, generous, thoughtful, kind-hearted, honest, bright, easygoing, outgoing, courageous, likeable, flexible, witty, sharp, adventurous, lively, extraordinary

Skills: Writing, creative writing, vocabulary (descriptive adjectives)
Tools: Journal, Blog or Facebook page
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Activity 8 - A letter of complaint

Do you know how to write a letter or email of complaint? Here is a model that you can follow:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to complain about a product that I recently purchased from you for my office, the EWBX coffee machine. The receipt is attached here.

There are two issues with it:

  • The coffee that it produces has a burnt taste.
  • After making three cups of coffee, the overheating sensor flashes and it cannot be used for an hour.

No matter how we adjust the settings, we cannot seem to fix these issues.

Please help us to solve these two issues. If you need to send a technician, you can contact me at this number to arrange it: 603 2323 1000.

Best regards,

Mr George Thomas

Your task:

Imagine that you have purchased an alarm system for your small office. The alarm goes off every day at 10 o’clock in the morning and during lightning storms. You can’t seem to fix these two problems by adjusting the settings. The company provides no helpline, but does give an email address where you can send your complaint.

Write out your email of complaint using our example as a model.

Skills: Writing, formal writing
Tools: Journal, Blog or Facebook page
Time: 5-10 minutes
Skill Level: Medium

Hard or challenging activities

Activity 9 - Review a TED talk

Ted.com is a fantastic website that I often recommend to my students. It is a video site, like YouTube, but featuring talks and presentations.

The talks cover many interesting topics and are always presented well. There are transcripts available to help you understand.

The talks are anywhere from three minutes to over thirty minutes. I recommend choosing a short one, such as this talk, for this activity.

Once you have chosen a TED talk that you like, watch it and then write a short review.

Here are some questions to help you think of what to write.

  • Did you enjoy the talk?
  • What did you learn from the talk?
  • Did you agree with every point?
  • Did you disagree with any points?
  • How practical was the information?
  • Describe the speaker’s style.
  • What was the most important point?
  • Who would benefit from this talk?
  • How easy is the talk to understand, for non-native speakers of English?

You don’t need to answer all of these questions; they are just a guide. You should aim for at least 100 words for this activity.

Skills: Writing, reviewing, listening
Tools: TED Talks, Journal, Blog or Facebook page
Time: 20+ minutes
Skill Level: Hard

Activity 10 - Writing a LinkedIn post

The final activity is good for learners interested in Business English.

LinkedIn is an extremely popular site amongst career-minded people. I find that almost everyone that I work with has an account (including me). It’s free to use for the basic features.

LinkedIn allows you to build a network of people who you know through work, or who have similar work interests to you. You can use it to share your profile and look for work.

But you can also use it to share posts, just like Facebook. That is what we want to do here.

Your task is simply to write a LinkedIn post about your job, describing the benefits and drawbacks. For example, I would write about the benefits and drawbacks of being a teacher.

You should aim for around 100-200 words for this post. Try to write it in a way that would benefit people who are interested in having a job like yours.

If you are not currently working, an alternative task is to create a CV and upload it to LinkedIn. Who knows, it may help you land a job!

Skills: Writing, business writing
Tools: LinkedIn
Time: 10-20 minutes
Skill Level: Hard

Remember to repeat these activities

These ten activities should activate your writing practice and give you some good ideas on how to improve.

Remember, many of these activities can be repeated (such as reviewing TED talks). So, keep working hard and keep building up your writing journal!

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