Many online English learners find writing a daunting task. Staring at a blank piece of paper (or a white screen with a blinking cursor) can be a little intimidating. When ideas can’t seem to flow freely in perfectly structured sentences, then it might be a good idea to do two crucial pre-writing steps: brainstorming and outlining.
Pre-writing techniques are essential for anyone learning English online, especially those who find writing a little bit challenging. We allow ourselves to explore different ideas, angles, and thoughts during the pre-writing stage without any judgments. There are no right or wrong ideas when we are preparing to write. We simply let the ideas flow as they come. We organise our thoughts during the pre-writing stage, which can help us write more clearly and effectively.
Brainstorming is a pre-writing technique that enables writers to gather and generate ideas about a specific topic. This step is beneficial for those learning English online, as brainstorming does not involve any grammar rules (those will come in later during the actual writing phase). It is okay to commit errors when brainstorming, as these are merely ideas that can help us get the ball rolling when writing. Moreover, the brainstorming stage is mainly for the writer, and it is not usually meant to be read by an audience, which makes this step necessary when generating ideas on what to write.
There are different ways to approach brainstorming. The most common is freewriting, wherein we simply jot down our ideas on paper without any corrections, structure, or organisation. Another way to do brainstorming is to cluster similar ideas into a web of interconnecting ideas. Cubing is another excellent way to do brainstorming, wherein we get to take a look at the different angles of a specific topic. Finally, you can also approach brainstorming in a journalistic approach by answering the 5Ws and 1H questions – who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Brainstorming is an excellent way for those who are learning English online to get started with writing.
Now that you have gathered and generated ideas during the brainstorming phase, it’s time to organise them into an outline.
An outline may sound intimidating, especially for online English learners. But in reality, it is simply a way to help structure our writing before we start. Organising our thoughts into an outline gives us a chance to glimpse what our article, essay, or story would look like once it is finished. An outline can also guide us to stay on track as we write. It also helps us ensure that our writing is focused and covers all the necessary topics or parts.
Just like brainstorming, there is no specific way of outlining. In some cases, you will be required to write a formal, more structured outline before writing, especially for some online English courses. But even if you are not required to create one in one of your online classes, creating one can still help you learn to be a better writer. A more freely structured outline could be a topic outline, wherein you use keywords to help you structure your ideas. If you want to write the main idea sentence for each part of the outline, you are already making a sentence outline – another effective way to plan and organise your writing.
If you’re writing an article or an essay, you can create a three-part outline containing your introduction, body, and conclusion. You can list down related ideas or supporting details to explore your piece’s topic further under each part.
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Read more learning English online tips here.