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The journey to write better blog posts in English as a non-English speaker.
This is an article about what I’ve tried to improve my English skills and how I am getting closer to the quality I’d like to at least hit.
As well as every angle of view and things I’ve stumbled upon considering providing the best experience a reader might have read this blog.
Trying to Always Improve
So it’s not necessarily what worked out already. I will only know some months later from now.
Before I started writing this blog I’ve thought that I got some decent English skills.
Little did I know that this perception of my language writing skills would change a lot when being some months in.
It was like the readers didn’t accept the written content and to be honest I’m still struggling a lot to produce better content.
I asked some people around me that I thought had way better English than me. Therefore I need to put my ego aside and accept any type of criticism that could be helpful.
I clearly thought that I can and will reach a bigger audience with this Blog using English. Traffic already shows that many people from the US, Australia, Canada, and the Philippines visit the blog quite regularly now. Though I am still working on increasing the traffic.
If you don’t happen to know, English is for sure not my first language. I was born in Germany in a little big village.
Little big? Yes, it is quite small but 15.000 inhabitants is a lot of people for a village. Where I grew up near the woods in my parent’s house together with my two older sisters and a cat. As well as plenty of deer, foxes, snakes, frogs around the house and the garden.
No no no, only the cat was a pet of us three kids. The others were just around because we lived at the border of the town.
So there were large woods.
I stuck to English here because I still got the vision in my mind that this blog will take really of one day and hit it.
Every day I do something to push it a little further: Getting some backlinks of people sharing articles or parts of it,
getting some emails even or comments personally yet. I implement SEO strategies of Neil Patel, MOZ or Quicksprout
or others like Making Sense of Cents (Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing*).
Watch your critic
Was the first thing I had to consider.
I came across three types of criticism at least:
- “Fake Criticism”This is criticism that just states for instance, that my blog is crap.
If I would ask why?
They’d say: It’s just not good, delete it. I hate it.
But they couldn’t give any reasons why. They just happened to say that they won’t like it whatsoever
- Constructive CriticismThis might still hurt at times, but it is normally very helpful and I was grateful for every suggestions to improve my language, content and flow.
- The criticism that makes only your “Reviewer” feel better
You know that, don’t you? Those people that might say you should be dressing differently because it irritates them how you dress.
Or you’re not allowed to say that word “Claro” or “clear” because if it’s not you have not the right to say that.
When I heard that for the first time I was really like: Wait, what? I couldn’t believe it. After some more of these types of comments, I was clear about sorting those people out of my life whenever possible if they always talk like that.
Sure, we have all our flaws and judging just for the sake of making yourself feel better is a big no no in my eyes, thoughts and current personal development state in my life.
There will be two more, people that might gossip badly about your site behind your back but fail to even write you a personal email or a comment.
Of all the criticism we bloggers receive even the two types that make sense can not all be applied immediately.
For instance, one person suggested to hire an editor or someone for proofreading my blog,
this is a really good idea, but not really practical yet. Why? Because I am just starting out, i.e. yes, the blog exists for about a year now. But I didn’t take it as seriously since I bought the course of Michelle’s Making sense of Affiliate Marketing*.
Which showed me that the course is clearly depicted so you got a guideline what to do exactly.
There’s one part in it called:
“Improve Your Top 10.”
Where I was like great! I don’t even have my own top 10 yet. I posted way too fewer articles.
My traffic at that time wouldn’t even show what is good and what is not. Some readers seemed to have stumbled upon my blog and stick there like glue. Really. Persons that had sessions on my site for 30 minutes? Other my content was making them crazy and caused severe brain damage (just kidding, just to make sure. 😉 or they really would spend that much time on my site.
And it seems on some of my articles they really do.
Using Tools to Improve Grammar and Reduce Spelling Errors
To reduce the typos and even sometimes correct prepositions which also can be a bottleneck of writing in another language.
For example, if I as a person would be annoyed by reading
“Ich ging in den Brücke.
Dann ich fiel unter der Strasse.”
Which would roughly translate to the same bad quality in English like:
“I walked in them bridge.
Then I fell under the street.”
For sure I could relate to people reading the blog thinking:
What the heck he’s talking about?
This kills everything. The blog. The readers and the fun.
Because for sure we are needy in terms of a return of investment. If no one ever reads our blogs seriously,
we don’t get any new subscribers or no one is leaving comments at all, this is hard to bear at first.
This is where tools like Grammarly and Ginger come in handy that at least show me if it’s
in the long run or in the long run
or long term or long term.
where to set a comma and even changing the grammar of sentences at times.
Finding some Friends or Acquaintances (Native Speakers)
The next thing I could definitely do is finding friends or fellows that are native speakers and would be willing to have a look at my blog.
I took only those in account that would give me real advice in the long run, i.e. not just be telling, you don’t have to change much or telling me, yeah it looks good. No, I need those that tell me for instance where I’ve messed up the flow in my texts.
Because dabbling around with the same issues over and over again is not my goal here.
Making a List
Another thing I am doing on a consistent basis now is enlarging my list.
Every time I come across something new that is better than before I am going to write it down,
thus over time developing a history that shows me clearly how I improved and which were the most crucial parts of doing so.
Considering a Reader’s Perspective
I experimented with different perspectives. First-person perspective or third-person perspective.
As well as being focused on ME as well as YOU.
ME: I had to do this to improve the quality of my blog posts.
YOU: You have to do this to improve the quality of your blog posts.
(Same content addressing different persons)
As well as different tenses and narrative styles.
I will have to frequently check and improve on this.
I wasn’t even aware that this could be an issue until I did a research:
Do I address people like I would be the person giving a seminar?
Or do I tell more personally here, like I am talking to a very good friend? With the intent in mind providing the best value to I can.
What already had helped a lot is imitating. Not copying. No. But imitating what another person does.
Does the language contain a lot of metaphors in English? Or expressions I would not use though native speakers use them?
Speaking the New Learned Idioms, Expressions, Terms aloud
Then I will write them down, insert them into my texts and especially do one thing:
Speaking them aloud.
Yes. Because I’ve noticed this will immediately activate some areas in my brain so this gets added to my active vocabulary.
The words, I will not only understand from now on but already be able to use them.
If you would feel embarrassed because your neighbors could hear you doing so you can do this:
- Search for another flat where no neighbors and no one hears you at all.
- Develop an almost completely ignoring and not caring attitude, like: It’s their problem. Not mine. I need to do this.
- Just whispering them or do this when no one is around.
Warning: I wouldn’t recommend the second opportunity. 😉
Facing the Fear
In this case, it means: Avoidance results from resistance.
Asian people will know many times a lot more about: resistance being an emotion. Did you know?
You can feel the resistance when you’re about to do something that is quite scary.
Somehow we’re all scared and tired at some point in our life, right?
In terms of writing and growing an English blog this means:
Making many mistakes. Yeah, we have been taught to not make the same mistake twice.
To learn from our mistakes. But this will undoubtedly happen in this domain.
Therefore: Where you feel the most resistance most likely the greatest growth is hidden.
This is why I started doing what I fear the most at times even here, to see if it improves the result
as well as destroys the resistance big time. Getting the hang of it results in much faster progress for me.
Reevaluate older Blog Posts later
There are several reasons to do so.
- You improved your grammar or style which is why you suddenly spot new issues in older articles
- Even the language may have changed over time
- You have changed
- The blog topics got more concise and sharp
- You can add more internal links because your blog has grown
- The grammar and proofread plugins may have improved tremendously, so they can assist even better in finding more mistakes
Doing a Research
What did other bloggers write about improving their English quality in their blog posts? What were the difficulties they faced?
Is there someone mentioning the same problem I had encountered as well? Maybe I can apply the same strategy to improve my content and English.
OK, what did/do I get out those?
- Reading English books
- Listening to English content, like Youtube
- Listening to English Radio Stations: Like BBC
- Reading the New York Times
- Keep a notebook of key dialogue phrases
- Keep a notebook of nouns, verbs, adjectives
Dealing with Emotional Blockages
It’s also important to deal with your emotional blockages that prevent you from improving older content.
Do you like proofreading to change your older articles, texts, blog posts or even give aways? Most likely you don’t.
But still, this is work that has to be done. If you don’t do it, who else would?
There exist the most obvious and at the same time relevant ones:
- writer’s block
- focusing on too little things all the time
- the shift of working at your business or in your business
- self-image acting like a filter allowing you what successes are in reach and out of reach
- success blockages
If my self-image tells me all the time, that
I am no one who can produce eligible English content, how for heaven’s sake is it possible to change that, if my personality structure is that rigid? No way.
If you want to make your posts perfect until you release them you’re giving your readers certainly a hard time.
Because they are going to wait forever until your next very valuable piece is born to see the light. Don’t do that.
Just set a limit for when it is good enough. If it still takes you forever go the other way: Set the limit as low as possible.
Which could be: Just get it out today. Yea, this will be not the best way at first, but it leaves way more room for improvement and you readers getting new content compared to articles that almost never will appear.
Analyzing what Works
Sometimes you will even find articles of your page that perform a lot better than others.
Even if they are not that well written yet. Therefore it’s also a good idea to analyze them and find out what sustains their good performance.
This can be:
- Valuable content
- Some perfectly written phrases or paragraphs that are enough to make your readers feel good.
- Good clean structure, but not that clean grammar
- Bits and pieces that sum up in a xgood experience, though the text is not written like cornerstone content.
- Maybe it’s even a quote like this:
Contact other people or bloggers that face the same struggles to collaborate, exchange and share tips.
Sometimes even just one person could give you a little hint that skyrockets your success.
That you didn’t even consider. As well as this will grow your ideas coming up with even better pieces of content whatsoever.
Tell me what are you struggling with in terms of content considering your native language? No matter if you’re a native speaker or not.
What do you do to improve your situation?
What did you try and failed?
Where were your biggest successes you might have not even considered in the first place?
Leave a comment below.