Try to write English frequently, in a wide range of formal and informal situations.
Here are some tips:
You might look for a penfriend or offer a language
exchange with an English-speaking friend. Exchange letters or e-mails.
Alternatively, use a Messenger service or a chatroom.
Ask your friend to correct your mistakes, and try to use new vocabulary you learn
so that you understand how to use it correctly.
When arranging to come to the UK or to travel, write business
letters (or e-mails) in English. If it is important, ask an English-speaking
friend or teacher to check it before you send it.
Study how to write essays in English. Write about your opinions
to discussion groups which interest you.
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Whether you are in your home country or in the UK, you may want to find an English-speaking
friend to write to (perhaps someone with similar interests or who is interested
in your culture). This sort of friend is known as a penfriend (American
English: penpal). Some people prefer to correspond using letters (sometimes
called "snail mail" because it is slower), while others prefer to use
e-mail (sometimes this kind of penfriend is also called a key pal or an
To find a penfriend website, you can type penfriend, pen friend,
penpal, pen pal, key pal or e-pal into a search engine
such as Google: http://www.google.co.uk.
If you want to find a penfriend from a particular part of the UK, you could try
the following links:
English friends: http://www.pen-friends.net/england.html
Welsh friends: http://www.pen-friends.net/wales.html
Scottish friends: http://www.pen-friends.net/scotland.html
Irish friends: http://www.pen-friends.net/ireland.html
International Penpals is one of the larger penpal organisations: http://www.ipfeurope.com
Europa Pages have a penpal site for international students: http://www.europa-pages.com/penpal_form.html
For your security, you should not give out your personal address or phone number
to someone until you are sure you can trust the person. If you meet your penfriend,
make sure that the first meeting is in a public place, and if possible take a
friend with you.
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If you take part in a language exchange, you agree to help an English-speaker
(your language partner) to learn your own language, and in exchange your
partner helps you to learn English. You may use any media to do this, but if you
are living in different places, an exchange using e-mail or a Messenger service
is the most common.
One way to find a language exchange partner is to use the eTandem service.
For details, see: http://www.slf.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/etandem/etpartner-en.html
The most common languages learnt by British people are French, German, Spanish
and Italian (in that order), so it may be easier for people speaking these languages
to find an English language partner.
Another useful website is My Language Exchange: http://www.mylanguageexchange.com
For languages which are less commonly taught in the UK, you may be able to find
an exchange partner by attending a social event attended by British people who
are interested in your culture (see: English/Speaking),
visiting a website for people who are interested in your culture, or by contacting
a place (in your country or in the UK) where your language is taught to British
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Many people enjoy sending an receiving e-mail, especially if they share a common
interest. Writing e-mails to a friend in English allows you as much time as you
need to write the message and look up any words or grammar that you don't know.
If you are paying for each minute that you are connected to the internet, you
may want to write e-mails while you are not connected and then connect just to
type the message and send it.
E-mails are usually written in a less formal style than letters. It is common
to start an e-mail with the name of the person you are writing to, without starting
with the word "Dear". The following are examples of some appropriate
ways to start and end an e-mail:
(1) Writing to your partner
Start: Use the person's first name or nickname
Ending: "Take care", or "Love", or "Thinking of you"
Signature: Your first name, or nickname
(2) Writing to a friend
Start: Use the person's first name
Ending: "Best wishes", or "Yours", or "Take care"
Signature: Your first name
(3) Writing to someone in your own company
Start: Use the person's first name (in a few companies you might need to be more
formal, but this is rare in the UK)
Ending: "Regards", or "Best wishes"
Signature: Your first name and last name, and below this your job title and department,
and phone number (or extension)
(4) Writing to someone in another organisation or someone in a formal position
Start: Use the person's title (eg: Mr, Mrs, Ms, Dr) and surname (eg: Smith), or
just "Sir/Madam" if you don't know the name
Signature: Your first name and last name (you might add your title after this
in brackets if you want to make it clear if you are a man or woman). Below this
your job title (if appropriate) and contact details (you may want to include your
telephone number or address)
For further details about e-mail, see: Life/Computer
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A blog (an abbreviation of the word "weblog") is a website on
which you can publish your messages and photos. If you are studying abroad in
the UK, you might use a blog to create a diary about your life in the UK. Write
in English (or both in English and in your home language), so that you can use
this as a way of improving your writing skills. Note that the blog is not private,
so do not write things there which you do not want others to read. A basic blog
can be created for free, and is very easy to update. The most popular service
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Internet services such as MSN (Microsoft), Yahoo and AOL provide a service called
an Instant Messenger. You download some software which shows you when a
friend who is using the same service is online:
By clicking on a name, you can start a written conversation. Just type a message
and press the return key to send it. There is no delay between the time you send
a message and the time your friend receives it, so you can chat quite naturally.
Chatting in this way is a good way of improving your writing skills. You can save
the conversation (so that you can study it again afterwards) by choosing File
and then Save.
For further details about Messenger services, see: Life/Computer
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A chatroom is similar to the Instant Messenger described above. However, anyone
can visit such a site so you should be careful about giving out your personal
details when you visit one. The common area of a chatroom can be confusing if
there are many people chatting at the same time: most chatrooms will allow you
to start a private discussion with one person in a separate window if you prefer.
If you want to chat with another user of this site about one of the topics covered
by this website, you can try using the chatroom on this site at: Chat.
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Keep business letters which you receive in English (for example from a school
or company) and try to learn from heir style. Note that there are some differences
in style between letters written in American English and British English. For
example, the way of writing dates is different (the order is day, month, year
in Britain, eg 1/2/2002 or 1 Feb 2002 or 1st February 2002; month, day, year in
the US, eg 2/1/2002 or Feb 1 2002 or February 1st 2002), and the way of starting
and ending the letter may also be different.
You should normally type a business letter, but a letter which is written neatly
by hand is also acceptable. Writing the letter by hand may be better to write
by hand in some less formal situations, for example if you are applying for a
part-time job in a shop or if you want to be an au pair and are writing to the
At the top of the letter, write your address (using English letters) on the right
hand side. You do not need to put your name at the top of this address, because
it will already be written at the bottom of the letter (see below). As well as
your postal address, you may want to include your telephone or fax number (if
you are not in the same country as the person to whom you are writing, you should
use the international way of writing this, including the country code: see Life/Telephone).
You may also want to include your e-mail address.
Write the full name and address of the person to whom you are writing on the top
left hand side of the letter.
On the right hand side, underneath your own address, write the date on which you
wrote the letter. To avoid any possible confusion, it may be better to write the
address in full (for example: 1st February 2002).
In Britain, when you do not know the name of the person to whom you are writing
(or if you know the name but you want to write in a very formal style), you normally
start a business letter with the words "Dear Sir". "Sir" is
a word for a man, but it is understood that it is just a convention to use this
and that the letter may be read by either a man or a woman. You can write "Dear
Sir/Madam" instead if you prefer, but it is not common to write "Dear
Madam" unless you are certain that the letter will be read by a woman. You
should end the letter with "Yours faithfully" ("Faithfully yours"
is only used in American English).
If you know the person's name (for example, Mr Green), you should normally start
a business letter with "Dear Mr Green". If you are writing to a woman
who is married (for example, Mrs Green) you should start the letter "Dear
Mrs Green". If you are writing to a woman who is not married and refers to
herself as Miss Green, you should start the letter "Dear Miss Green".
If you are not sure if the woman is married or not, it is more polite to write
"Dear Ms Green" (Ms can be an abbreviation for either Mrs or Miss).
You should end the letter with "Yours sincerely".
Note that you shouldn't add a full stop at the end of abbreviated words if the
last letter of the abbreviation is the same as the last letter of the full word.
For example, you should write Mr Smith (short for Mister) or Dr Smith (short for
Doctor), but Prof. Smith (short for Professor) - there is a full stop in the last
example because "f" is not the last letter of the word "professor".
When you start the letter, you may want to put a special heading to make the subject
of the letter clear, especially if your letter is quite long. It is common to
start this "Re: " ("re" introduces the subject: it means "about")
and then give a one-line summary of the subject (for example: "Re: application
for place on Business English course"). You should mention the last letter
you have received, including the date written on the letter and the reference
number if there is one (for example: "Thank you for your letter of 2nd February,
reference MC/0275"). If you are sending some documents with your letter,
you should mention this (for example: "Please find enclosed my completed
application form", or "Please find attached a copy of my CV"),
and you should write "Enc:" and a list of these documents at the bottom
of the page (after your signature).
It is better to sign the letter personally as well as typing your name underneath.
Your signature proves that you wrote the letter, and also makes it a little bit
more personal. You can sign using your own language, but do remember to write
your name clearly underneath your signature using English letters.
If you are writing about business in an e-mail, the style used is often less formal,
although you can follow the formal rules above if you wish. For example, it is
common to start the message without the word "Dear", or to use the person's
first name (if someone writes to you in this way, it is normally alright to reply
in the same style). A less formal ending would be just "Yours", or something
like "Regards" or "Best wishes". As a signature, it is common
just to type your name.
For information about exams in business English (for example: BEC, Pitman and
LCCI exams), see: English/Exams.
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Usenet discussion groups are available on Google: http://groups.google.com
The BBC organise a moderated e-mail discussion group: http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/youmeus/discussion/discuss.shtml
There are discussion boards for a range of subjects for students learning English
at Dave's ESL Cafe: http://www.eslcafe.com
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Write a British CV (resumé): Work/CV
Home page: Home
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