Improving My English

I have been asked many times by different people throughout the years how to improve their English. A lot of them raise the point that the words I use are understandable and not always bombastic, but it has never crossed their minds to use it a certain way in a sentence. I am extremely flattered by their queries, but I have to first admit that my English is not the best. However, I am willing to help those who are keen in improving theirs and I hope that this blog post will help you!

Firstly, I cannot deny that my upbringing in Singapore has helped me create a strong foundation in the language. Growing up in an education system and environment that mostly spoke in English, I am more fluent in English than I am in my own mother tongue, Bahasa Melayu. No, I am not bragging. There are pros and cons to this, especially when you live in a country that prioritises Bahasa Melayu, and I am continuously trying to improve my Malay, just as much as others want to improve their English.

But anyway! Here are a few basic tips.

1. Read, read, read, and LOTS of reading.

Whether it be articles, books, magazines, tweets, poems etc., read as much as you can! You get to learn new words and ways to structure sentences. Different writers have different styles of writing and through reading, you get to see the variety.

2. The dictionary and thesaurus is your best friend.

When you come across a word or phrase that you do not understand, always look it up! Besides that, also find out the right way to use them. The thesaurus is especially helpful when you feel like you are using a particular word too much. Using synonyms will refrain from your writing sounding boring and repetitive.


I am sad today because my pet cat has died. My whole family is sad too.

I am sad today because my pet cat has died. Her passing left my family heartbroken too.

3. Write down phrases or quotes that interest you.

I do this one a lot because sometimes, other writers put into better words the things that I wish to convey. I keep notes on quotes that I like or can relate to, and whenever I feel the need to use them, will always paraphrase from them. Do not copy the phrases or quotes verbatim, but use the keywords and main idea and structure it into your own sentence. This has helped me a lot in my writing.


“Education is the passport of the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” ­– Malcolm X

Education is more than just learning. It’s the passport for the future – your future, my future, our future.

4. Song lyrics!

Who doesn’t love music? In fact, you’ll love them even more when you know that songs can actually help improve your English by a ton. A lot of times, lyrics include uses of metaphors, analogies, and hyperboles that you wouldn’t have thought on your own. Songs also tell stories in just a few short stanzas. Understanding songs, or trying to interpret them, can really help you in your creative writing.


“Weekend warriors and our best friends; The writers weren’t kidding about how all good things must end.” – Down and Out, The Academy Is

Interpretation: The “good things” in this line refers to “weekend warriors” (people you spend with during the weekend doing various thrilling activities) and “best friends”. A lot of writers write on how all good things don’t last forever, and this includes the friends that we have for now.

5. Don’t be embarrassed to try or ask.

The road to improving yourself is not an easy journey, there’s bound to be bumps along the way. Never be afraid to try out a word that you have never used or to ask for opinions from people who are more experienced than you are. You’ll never know the things that you might learn along the way. Even though I write columns and blog posts, occasionally I get emails from readers who tell me that my grammar or usage of a word is wrong and I am extremely thankful for them.

6. Keep writing.

You might not be doing writing for a living, but keep writing. Whether it’s in a journal, a tweet, a Facebook post, or a simple caption, never stop writing – even if no one is reading. The only way for you to realize how much you’ve improved is to keep track of your little achievements. I’ve read many things in my past posts that make me embarrassed, but I always feel a little proud for myself knowing that I’ve improved throughout the years.

These are just some basic tips for you to improve your English! I’m sorry I cannot provide more information on things like format or grammar. Maybe next time? But till then, I hope these tricks that I use will help you.

Happy writing!

Shafiqah Othman Hamzah

Shafiqah is a Singapore-born Malaysian who is best known for her advocacy on social and human rights issues. She is notably known for her tweets and for being a columnist on Malay Mail.