What to write in English outside class

What to write in English outside class

30 things to write for yourself and others to improve your English writing, speaking, vocabulary, etc.

This article gives thirty ideas for people who have few opportunities to write English emails etc in their normal life but want to write more to improve their English, and for people who want more writing options so they can expand the range of language that they use.

Most people’s friends and family will think it is strange and inconvenient if they suddenly start writing to them in English, so it’s usually best to write for yourself (e.g. a diary) or a possible international audience (e.g. YouTube comments). However, most people know at least one family member, friend, colleague, etc who also wants to learn the language, in which case you could agree to write English emails, text messages, chat, etc to each other. This article gives ideas for each of those three situations. Another article will follow on how to write outside class.

Things to write in English for yourself

  1. A diary/ schedule – Especially if no one else will see your diary, “Meet mother at the supermarket for lunch” is a nice easy way of writing some English every day.
  2. To do lists/ Shopping lists – This is another similar quick and easy way to get into the habit of writing in English, and it is very useful for learning how to say things that you often use like “conditioner” and “red bean jam”.
  3. A “Dear diary” diary – One of the most popular English writing tasks is to write about how your day went, what you think about what happened that day, etc in a notebook, private blog, or diary with lots of space for each day. If you run out of ideas or want to expand the range of things you write about, you could also write about what happened in the news. It is also very useful to use the diary to reflect on your English language learning, e.g. writing about how useful or not the dictionary app that you tried was.
  4. Stories – If you enjoy it, writing fiction is perhaps the best way of expanding your range of language. If you lack ideas, you could write a story that matches the name of another story that you haven’t read, search online for good first lines for stories, etc. Trying to use the vocabulary that you want to learn (e.g. the 15 words on your vocabulary list) in one story is also surprisingly easy, fun and useful (although the plot tends to be rather crazy!)
  5. Scripts – Writing out what you and others could say could be another fun kind of creative writing, or it could be preparation for dialogues you really might have in the future, or just a way of putting language you want to learn into context.
  6. Poems – Although poems are in some ways more difficult than stories, they are shorter, are good practice of pronunciation in rhyming words, and you may find that ideas flow as you continue with words which rhyme.
  7. Alternative lyrics – If you lack inspiration to write a totally original poem, it can be nice to rewrite songs to have an extra verse, to by funnier, to link to your own life, etc.
  8. Summaries – One of the best things you can do after reading something is to write your own summary of it, e.g. 50 words on what you remember from a news story. You can then look at what you read one more time for details you missed, useful language you could add to your summary, etc.
  9. Labels around the house – Post It notes with names of objects at home can be a good way of learning “French windows”, “intercom”, etc, and you can also expand on this with more detailed descriptions such as what each thing is made from.
  10. Something you want to memorise – Writing something out is a great way of memorising a speech, song lyrics, etc, perhaps ones chosen because they include the specific language that you want to learn.
  11. English-language exam answers – Even if you don’t have anyone to check them, and perhaps even if you don’t want to take the exam, it is well worth doing writing tasks from Cambridge B2 First, IELTS, etc, as there are many models online that you can borrow good language from after your own attempt.
  12. Vocabulary lists – If you avoid using translation in your lists of vocabulary to learn, you will need to write other things in English such as dictionary-like definitions and gapped example sentences. If you write these for yourself (and then perhaps compare with ones you look up), that adds a little useful English writing practice.
  13. Language explanations – After you have studied some grammar such as Future Continuous or uncountable nouns, it could be useful to write a summary of what you have learnt and then compare it to the one in your textbook, your grammar book, online, etc.

Things to write in English for a possible international audience

  1. Reviews – Reviewing hotels, restaurants, etc in English is one of the easiest ways to get read by an international audience, especially if you review something in English that mainly has reviews in your own language. For example, if your local ramen restaurant has no other English-language reviews, someone will definitely read yours sooner or later. These reviews can either go on sites with many reviews like Amazon or Yelp, or be put on your own blog (see below).
  2. A blog – As well as posting reviews, your blog (on, etc) can be used to share other useful information for an international audience like how your life is different from that of other countries, your culture, and your language. Perhaps the best feature for people learning English is that you can keep the whole blog or individual posts private for as long as you like until you feel ready to share your ideas with the world.
  3. Microblogs – If you feel your blog takes too long and/ or gets too little reaction, sites like Threads and X (formerly Twitter) can be good ways of sharing much shorter things you want to share with more people.
  4. Social media posts – If you have or are hoping to have international social media contacts (friends, business contacts, etc), it’s worth alternating your posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc between ones in your own language and ones in English.
  5. Comments – If you don’t have time or don’t feel ready to write whole posts in English, it can be great to leave English comments on other people’s YouTube videos, Instagram posts, etc, for example sharing cultural differences between their life and yours.
  6. Wikipedia – The free online encyclopaedia often lacks content on non-English speaking countries, celebrities, etc, so the pages on your favourite local singers, beauty spots, etc probably need some help.
  7. Exam model answers – You can motivate yourself to work on your Cambridge Advanced review, TOEFL essay, etc by then posting it in comments on sites which have model answers, and you might get some useful feedback too.
  8. Translations – Although there can be issues with publishing translation legally, international readers might well appreciate your translations of the dialogue in a recent local comic, a more accurate translation of a recent local politician’s speech, etc.
  9. Letters to the editor – Even if it is not published (or even read), it can be useful English practice to write to editors of English-language newspapers, listings magazines in your city, etc with your views on the accuracy of their exhibition reviews, their political viewpoints, etc.
  10. In-game chat – Most of the students who have recently surprised me with their good English despite never going abroad have turned out to often interact in English via chat during online games.
  11. CV/ resumé – Writing an English CV can be a great way of learning useful English to express your own education, career, etc, and putting it online on LinkedIn etc means it could also lead to useful business contacts or even work!
  12. Customer feedback/ complaints – Although it can be difficult to contact companies with how your felt about their planes, their new flavours, etc, such feedback has a very good range of language of opinions, of describing things, etc, so it’s worth doing and then trying to find how you can actually share it with the company (perhaps on social media if no other way is possible).
  13. Website – Although blogs and social media posts are enough for most people, some people can find it motivating to set up a whole English website sharing their artworks, giving information on their hometown, etc.
  14. Forum posts – Although online forums on English language learning sites are not generally as busy as they used to be, there are still plenty of places where you can post questions about the language and learning it, answer other people’s enquiries, etc.

Things to write in English for fellow language learners

  1. Chat/ Texts – Online messaging fellow language learners in English with WhatsApp, Snapchat, etc is both the easiest thing to write and the closest thing to speaking practice, as the speed and informality are just like talking.
  2. Emails – As the range of language in chat is quite limited, it is also worth writing long communications to friends who are also learning English, colleagues in the same in-company English class at work, etc. These should preferably be realistic emails for that situation, e.g. life updates after you haven’t met someone for a while. However, you could also send more imaginative ones as if you lived in different countries, etc. You could also send emails back and forth as you are working on writing something else together (see below).
  3. Collaborative writing – Many of the kinds of writing above like blog posts and reviews could also be done together, e.g. both writing descriptions of your trip to a local tourist spot together, to be put up as one blog post, or taking turns continuing a story (a kind of “chain writing”).

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