Tips for writing as a non-native English speaker

By Lina Alrababh

When John Palmer – the editor in chief of On Edge – said to us, “you can write about the process of writing or advice for writers,” I wasn’t sure how useful I was going to be in this matter. Being a non-native speaker was a big issue, but now, I have some tips I wish I had known when I started the Creative Writing course at Northumbria, and I hope they will be helpful for someone out there too.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Don’t Be Afraid

Fear was the main thing that stopped me from sharing my work with classmates. ‘Fear of the unknown’, I didn’t know how my fellow students would react when they read my work and give feedback. I remember the first time I read my work in class, I could barely breathe. But, when that moment is gone, it’s gone forever. I have noticed how helpful and constructive the feedback is, different people view it from different perspectives. It isn’t embarrassing nor it is shameful to make mistakes, and whoever reads your work will always give you something you didn’t notice. So, don’t let fear stop you from writing or sharing your work.

Work on What You Know First

You might think you have nothing to offer when you are in a class filled with native speakers. You’re wrong! You have a lot to offer, including details about where you grew up and the places you have been. You know your culture more than anyone else, you know your cuisine, traditions, customs, and habits. And, guess what? A lot of people out there are interested in knowing these details, especially when they come from someone who grew up there. Isn’t that amazing?

Keep the First Draft For Yourself

The first draft can have repeated and simple words, it is when you first write the story and create it from your head. Don’t panic if it has a lot of repeated words, for example, mine is filled with ‘walk’ and ‘see’. After the story comes to life on paper, that’s when your chance arrives to edit these repeated words that shouldn’t be in one sentence or show a lack of vocabulary.

Expand Your Vocabulary But Don’t Push it Too Much

Expand the number of words you know, this is a slow process that doesn’t improve in a day or two, so be patient. Write down the new words you learn, use them in sentences, let them make sense in your head. Reading helps, so read as much as you can. Editing your work and adding new vocabulary helps too, but don’t push it too far. Too many new words can take away from the original meaning and wouldn’t necessarily show how good your English is, it might suggest the opposite. It’s okay to keep it simple.

We are all learning

Don’t be frightened to participate in workshops, we are all there for a purpose. We are all working on a piece where any feedback would be useful. Don’t be afraid to express your opinion on others’ work, in fact, it’s highly appreciated as you might see things differently and that’s more helpful than receiving similar feedback from everyone.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

In the end, nobody is born a writer, we all have to learn some skills and work on them step by step. Celebrate the little achievements to have bigger ones. Some websites like, and will help a lot in learning more about grammar and punctuation and finding the right vocabulary.

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