How to Improve Writing Skills as a Non-Native Speaker

Ilona Codes on January 15, 2019

Let me begin by saying, that writing a new post either on technical or soft skill topics is always a challenge for me. Why? Because I am not a nat... [Read Full]
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I'm a non-native speaker too.

I was awful at English in school, almost dropped out because of it, that was 15 years ago.

I wanted to become a developer and to be on the bleeding edge of technology I had to read English content online.

I got the impression German tech-news were often 1-2 weeks behind, so one day I stopped reading German tech content entirely.

When I noticed my English improving I also started reading English books and watching movies and shows in English, which grew my understanding tremendously.

2017 I started blogging, this showed me my deficits in writing, but I got better over time. In 2018 I even wrote my first book entirely in English. Grammarly and a native-speaker as an editor helped much with that.


Wow! You really did a great job! πŸ‘


Cool post! Having such a large portion of the dev community communicating in your native language is something I think a lot of English speakers take for granted, myself included. In the spirit of constant improvement and help from native speakers, I've done some edits for you :). I hope they are helpful!

I used to be an awful writer, mainly because I have only learned English as a second language at school.

Yes, my English writing

You can cut English here, it is implied by the context.

And it took around two years of consistent work to reach a β€œnot that bad” style of writing.

At the beginning of my blogging journey, I have spent around 4-5 hours to re-read, edit and confirm the end version of the post before publishing it.

Especially in the styles , you want to emulate

You don't need this comma.

I believe that one of the best ways to perfect writing skills and grammar is to read. And read a A lot.

Try to collect or keep notes of the writing templates the most used while doing a new post.

This does not quite make sense. Do you mean:

Try to collection or keep notes on the writing template you use the most.


Take notes on popular writing templates, and use them yourself.


I have use(d) the program in my everyday writing for over a year or more.

It helps find comma errors with ease, detect and correct repetitive words, and highlight(s) the missing details during the writing

Remember, that no one was born a professional and no one is perfect.

In the beginning, probably, you might will not be that good,


Amazing! πŸ˜ƒThank you for the edits, and your spent time on that πŸ™ I appreciate it ☺️and will correct the post later.


But you never did correct them!
I am not a native speaker myself but I noticed some of the errors that Sam Colburn saw.


The Elements of Style is definitely a classic, but I find newer books like The Sense of Style better suited for modern English. Also, I also highly recommend On Writing Well for a more fun yet educational read.

Grammarly is very useful, I use the premium plan, but we can't blindly follow all its corrections. I find particularly nagging its stubbornness to flag passive voice as incorrect. Passive voice has its place in the English language and is sometimes the best alternative to say something.


Thank you for the link πŸ™ I bought it already! πŸ™‚


Thank you, Ilona. As a non-native speaker, I also have to labor to write in proper English, and I am paranoid about it too, especially as a blogger. I find that using my computer to read back to me what I wrote really helps to catch a lot of errors. My "ear" sometimes is more attuned to errors than my eyes.


Another tip! πŸ“Œ It's also useful to re-read a post aloud before publishing πŸ™‚


Because language is our border. But language too is our bridge.

correctmygrammar haha


I'm really bad at English since I was in school despite my country's education system uses the UK English standards.

I find that reading the book On Writing Well, 30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction and Grammarly is really a lifesaver as I started to write articles for my blog.


You are right, Grammarly is a gem! πŸ’Ž Thank you for the book πŸ™ I will check it out πŸ™‚


Thanks for this article!

I think I'm not the only non-native english writer who takes it as an incentive to keep on working, writing and improving.
God job!

Btw, the hemingwayapp has been greatly helpful to me, may it could be to you too...


Really nice app. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks for the link.


I agree, especially with Grammarly. Grammarly it's not perfect but it helps a little.

I also started reading light novels. Why? Because they are funny!

Also, I started publishing on Medium (free), Github (obvious) and even published a Wikia.


You do right things! Keep blogging! πŸš€


Hi there!
I'm also a non-native speaker. My native language is Russian.

So, because of the big part of interesting blogs and frontend articles are in English, I'm trying to do my best for practice in this language.

For now, I've finished translation for one chapter (Chapter 2)of "Types&Grammar" book of YDKJS series by Kyle Simpson. And also I like to watch some movies in the original language with eng subtitles. When I wearing my headphones, I always try to figure out what about this song.

For translation, I use "ReversoContext" app, for me it's awesome! Sometimes I watch funny YouTube videos and lessons with explanation songs and movies from famous bloggers))


Helpful tips about the translation of books! πŸ˜ƒ


Non-native english writer here as well
I can very well relate with your struggles.

Grammarly is super well-known because they have ads everywhere on the internet.

But I don't find Grammarly actually good.

It has too many false positives and bad suggestion.
According to them for example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is full of errors.

The funny part is that Grammarly is much worse if you pay the pro plan.

It then adds more suggestions that are also wrong.

Is there a no-nonsense alternative to Grammarly?

Ideally that would work at the macOS/Linux level


Thanks for posting this. As a non-native English writer, I can relate, a lot.

Here are some writing tips I've collected:

  • There is no replacement for practice. Write every day.

  • No one gets it right on the first draft. Be ready to edit and re-edit and re-edit.

  • Get someone to proofread before publishing. We are blind to our own mistakes too often.

  • Content is not clear unless your readers can (1) Find what they need. (2) Understand what they find. (3) Use what they find to meet their needs.

  • Well written prose has Clarity, Simplicity, Brevity, and Humanity.

  • Collect too much material, give the reader just enough.

  • Ruthlessly reduce your sentences. Edit until you can't eliminate or combine any more words.

  • Know your audience.

  • Don't overexplain.

  • Use the simplest word that maintains your meaning.

  • The first paragraph is crucial to catch your reader's attention. Don't waste it.

  • As soon as you made your point, look for the nearest exit and finish your post/chapter/section.

  • Readers will skim so plan accordingly.


Very relatable! I only became fluent because I spent a two years abroad in the USA. In school it was my weakest subject and failed almost all of the tests. So imagine me, someone who speaks about 3 basic sentences, being sent to a country where he knows no one and no one speaks Dutch... It was scary, but the best thing that could happen to me.

Right now with the writing aspect, you're spot on about all the points you make! Excellent post, thanks for bringing me back to the time I was still learning English, not knowing what it'd bring me in the end. πŸ™Œ


i am just amazed by the fact that someone's last name is actually called "Codes" - it looks you were born for this job !


Oh, that is not my real second name. That is the name of my brand. πŸ™ˆ


I can relate. English is not my native language and right now I'm trying to start blogging in English and Spanish. Thank you for the tips!!


Oh, this sounds great! It is even more challenging; you’re going to post in two languages! πŸ˜ƒMaybe I should do that as well, but English and German. πŸ˜…


Great advices!
Anything that forces you to spend time using the language will help you be better at it (not just for writing) Watching movies or listening podcast too has helped me a lot.


Also, if you get the chance to be among native speakers for a good part of your day (like at work), it gives you a tremendous boost, as well! πŸ‘


Great post!

I spend a lot of time on Google translate and linguee to check my phrases.

As a non-native speaker, I always feel that my posts are boring.
But maybe it would be the same in French πŸ˜•


To make posts less boring, I could personally recommend the book "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die". πŸ™‚


This is really great. I am a native speaker, but I think these tips are fantastic and inclusive. Shared on Twitter :)


Thank you. I saw! πŸ™ I’m happy to follow you!


I enjoy the advice. Thank you very much for sharing your experience. It is something that more of us have to do to help others.


Today, I read this post again. I'm still bad at writing. Sometimes I'm looking for friends to write or talk in English.

I believe this is the only way to improve my English.


I was reading your post and trust me I would never get that you aren't a native speaker if you hadn't mentioned it yourself!

Anyway, best wishes from another not native speaker!


This great post encourages me.
I, as a non-native, will improve my English diligently and hard like you.
Thank you :)

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