How International Students Can Improve Their Writing

February 24, 2014

U.S. News Education blog post gives 3 great writing tips for international students:

  1. Translate: By informally translating a piece of writing from your native language into English, you will gain insight into writing structure, word choice, and transitional phrases.
  2. Analyze required reading: When you come across an interesting topic, instead of just skimming for the main points, read with an eye toward writing style to analyze how the author conveys his/her ideas.
  3. Take advantage of your high school/college writing center: Working one-on-one with a writing tutor can help highlight frequent errors, identify alternative options for wrong word choices, and show you examples of proper ways to organize your original sentence.
Points 2 and 3 are actually applicable to all college and grad school applicants. In fact, even working in a law firm this past summer, all summer associates were required to meet with a writing coach to pinpoint weaknesses.

I’d also throw in these suggestions:

  • Read recreationally. No matter your reading level, take some time a few days a week to read a chapter or two before bed. Though fictional writing is very different from academic writing, you can still glean valuable information about sentence structure and descriptive phrasing. Better yet, read a translated version of your favorite book. Knowing the plot can help provide context and keep you motivated. (I tried this with the Chinese version of Harry Potter.)
  • Browse best-selling non-fiction. If you have an hour to spare at a bookstore, read the first sentence/paragraph of the best-selling non-fiction books on display. This is a great way to get a sense of how to write an introduction that both draws in a reader and is informative.
  • Proofread with a partner. It may help reinforce what you learn by proofreading someone else’s paper. This is a tactic used by many writing instructors and, though it’s a pain for all students involved when it’s required, it does expose you to alternate ways of writing you might not have thought to try before.

Improving one’s writing is a constant, lifelong endeavor that can yield great returns in your personal and professional life. Check out this article discussing the necessary components of solid college writing: conciseness, clarity, proper grammar and strong reasoning.



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tannar2020
Stanford ‘20


Accepted to Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA

Born in small town, interested in math, science, and literature. Attending Stanford University starting fall of 2016, planning on studying engineering or computer science, with a minor in a foreign language.
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computer science / design / music / film
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Chicago-->Cincinnati-->New York City. Dancer. Rower. Volunteer. Future Teacher.
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STEM outreach enthusiast. Poet. Programmer. Advocate for women in STEM.

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