Good written English is a hard thing to attain, even for a native speaker, let alone an international student. Even if you get a decent grasp of grammar and syntax there is a chance of your writing still looking a bit un-English: peculiar grammar constructions, unusual word order and suchlike will stick out like a sore thumb.
Good news: there are ways to alleviate the problem.
Bad news: it isn’t going to be all that quick or easy. But if you follow these simple tips you can make improving your written English both effective and fun.
1. Read a Lot
You may have a good enough English to talk and understand spoken speech, but in order to improve your written language you have to expose yourself to it. So, read! And we don’t talk Internet forums and chats here, but real good old-fashioned reading: books, newspaper articles, online information sites and so on – any sources of quality written English will do. You will enrich your vocabulary, learn new structures and idioms and will generally absorb the feeling of language.
2. Translate texts
Reading is good and helpful, but it is a somewhat superficial experience: you won’t get an understanding of internal structure of text in general and sentences in particular if you simply read them.
So take a short story, or a motivational speech, or simply a page from a book, and translate it. If your grasp of English is tentative, translate from English into your native language, when you get a little bit better, do it the other way round. The important thing here is to work with texts you like – this will make the entire experience much more pleasant and effective.
3. Use Your College Writing Center
Independent work is helpful because it is easily arranged – but by working with an experienced writing tutor you will get even better results. These people know their job, the difficulties English language presents to non-native speakers and how to overcome them. While translating and reading will help you get a general understanding of language, work with a tutor is more focused on creating particular competences and eliminating particular flaws. Don’t ignore this opportunity.
4. Do Thorough Analysis of Research Papers
Reading and translating fiction is both useful and fun, but you are out to learn academic writing, you should pay special attention to it, and to the topics that interest you in particular. In this fashion you will kill two birds with one stone: improve your written language and get a better understanding of the way academic texts are supposed to be structured, which is not a trivial task even to native speakers.
5. Ask the Internet
If you are unsure how a word is written, or if a sentence, structure or expression you have in mind sounds English or not, Google it. Although the Internet is far from being one hundred percent reliable, it is a good way to check something quickly.
Learning good written English is a hard task that will take time and effort. But if you practice regularly you will get there sooner rather than later.