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Since high school I have been haunted by my inability to organize my thoughts, frame sentences well and write clearly in English. When I came to the States I was about 18, and I needed to finish high school quickly. Even when I went to college, which was more like a technical school, I focused on the technical subjects more than I did on language skills. I could communicate so I thought I was okay. I realize that I just wanted to get a good grade and be finished with my English classes, but today I realize how much I desire to speak and write well.

In 1998, when I arrived here, I wanted to keep moving and be done with my studies and I thought writing skills weren't necessary for techies. However, with the outbreak of the Internet and email, communication is much more important and you look indolent, confused, even demented if your writing skills are not good.

I also had some major difficulties in life so I missed out on a lot. I always thought that I will just pick up on things, just as the technical stuff as things go on and have I made a huge mistake thinking that things will always fall in place, that my confidence, strength will carry me, that I will be unbreakable, but I just started and need to write for myself.

I would say I read and understand the vocabulary well, but I can't seem to organize my thoughts and I am not a effective communicator when I am writing. I think if I improve, it will help me with my speaking skills as well, so I guess the question is how do I improve on my English and am I too late to get better at it now?

Do I study grammar rules, do I have to know all the jargon and the rules of the sentences structures which is a whole a lot of gibberish to me, or do I read more? I live in the States so I use English on a daily basis. Do I just write more when I rearrange, rewrite and correct my sentences to the point when I cannot say what is correct any more? Do I keep copying more text from books, magazines, news papers, and the Internet which in all honesty have helped me get better at my writing? I just write; I don't follow any rules and I really look forward to your advice.

I really appreciate you reading and providing constructive help with my question! Thank you.

closed as off-topic by Jason Bassford, Shoe, Kris, JJJ, user067531 Sep 3 '18 at 12:34

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. It would be helpful to know what you are writing and who your intended audience is. That said, your question is better asked on the Writing (writing.stackexchange.com) site or the Language Learning (languagelearning.stackexchange.com) site, so I have voted to close it here. – Shoe Sep 3 '18 at 6:46
  • Obviously it's possible to improve on English, or any language or any other subject in your late 30s. Could you re-phrase the Question? – Robbie Goodwin Sep 3 '18 at 23:14
  • You say “I have been haunted by my inability to organize my thoughts” and “I can’t seem to organize my thoughts”.  This doesn’t sound like an insufficiency of language skills.  Can you organize your thoughts in your native language?  Sure, if you reside (or even spent a lot of time) in a predominantly English-speaking country / region, the goal is to learn to think in English.  But composing your thoughts in your native language and then translating them might be a reasonable compromise.   (If you don’t mind saying, what is your native language?) – Scott Sep 4 '18 at 2:25
  • The question in your title has been addressed in Second Language Acquisition (SLA) theory under the umbrella of critical period. Here is Wikipedia's introduction to the topic: "The critical period hypothesis is the subject of a long-standing debate in linguistics and language acquisition over the extent to which the ability to acquire language is biologically linked to age. The hypothesis claims that there is an ideal time window to acquire language in a linguistically rich environment, after which further language acquisition becomes much more difficult and effortful.". – Shoe Sep 4 '18 at 9:28
  • If you ask the question in your title on Language Learning you are more likely to get answers from experts in the field of SLA. – Shoe Sep 4 '18 at 9:29
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It is possible to improve almost any skill at almost any age, and thirty is not very old at all.

Even though you have a reasonable grasp of English I would suggest that you look into ESL course providers to see if any of them offer improvement (as opposed to beginner) courses, either face to face in your area or on line. Structured teaching will get you much further than the imformal methods you are currently using.

As a start, though, I suggest that you try to write shorter sentences and to separate your text into paragraphs. This will make your writing more readable and help you to organise your thoughts.

4

I edited what is now the first two paragraphs of your question, and left the rest alone, except for breaking it into several paragraphs.

Did you learn anything from studying my edit? If you did, I think you would benefit greatly from a writing class. If you didn't, you may need an ESL class, but I don't think you need to learn all the gibberish, as you put it.

I'm not an English or a writing teacher, so I am no expert in fixing your problem. However, I have edited much worse examples of writing than yours (and from native English speakers) into coherence, and they learned to write better by example.

I second the comment that you would probably get better advice on the Writing SE. The people there should know what kind of writing class you need, and the sort of places you could get it. Also, they could probably give you advice on what to avoid.

As for it being too late in your late 30s to learn how to write better: nonsense! You are still young, and you are motivated, and you probably have good work habits.

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It's certainly possible. The potential difficulties I can see are motivation and feedback. You need a goal, something you want to put into words, and you need someone competent to address the weaknesses. Reading rules and following them is all very well, but that doesn't necessarily lead to good writing, just to correct writing; the difference is often where the clarity comes in.

As you're from a technical background I assume/suggest that you start by working on your technical writing. Do you have reports or documentation to write on aregular basis? There are techniques for breaking these down and organising them that will help you more and sooner than trying something completely new. I've come across them from the point of view of writing scientific articles, but they would have been very helpful when writing technical material in industry at an earlier point in my career.

One key thing: editing. The best (technical) writers are good at editing their own work, but it's easy to pay too little attention to this step.

2

As well as courses do you like reading? Read good quality modern books (as the rules of writing today do not match the rules of writing of say Jane Austin or Dickens, they loved the double negative in Jane Austin's day and Dickens really loved huge run on sentences).

Look at the Booker prize list and the woman's Booker to get ideas of well written contemporary fiction (other writing prizes exist but I know those two care about quality of writing).

And just hang around the English language and learners board. I have learnt so much technical syntax of the English language I use every day.

I also have problems with tact, so I chose somebody at work who was willing to mentor me when I had to write sensitive emails, maybe there is someone at work whose communication style you like, and ask them for email reviews.

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I'll sum up the other answers here (with a little addition by me), since I think all aspects are important:

  • Thirty is not too old at all, as @BoldBen says.
  • Practice makes perfect - so if you can find something you like writing about (for example somewhere here on Stackexchange, or maybe on a knowledge site such as Wikipedia), do that regularly, and your writing will improve - that's my tip :).
  • Reading is a good way to also improve your writing - I'd have missed this, thanks @WendyG !
  • As @Chris_H and @ab2 point out, you can also learn about writing techniques, and this can really help as well - of course there's different places and ways of doing that (which they point out nicely), and you'll have to see what fits you best!
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review – Theresa Sep 3 '18 at 19:55
  • Two points - I can see (now) that the Question is viewed as off-topic here (and even mentioned explicitly as such on the help page); I had assumed English.SE to be broader, ie include linguistics. What I don't see is how my specific post is not answering the question ? If the point is that I'm not using the style and format that is wished for and the norm here, I'll happily concede that. But I very much do answer the question - of how to improve English writing skills - just as much as the other answers... So what gives ? – Sean CJ Sep 4 '18 at 6:22
  • Related but different: Wouldn't this question be appropriate for migration to languagelearning.stackexchange.com ? I had a look there, and I had the feeling it would be welcomed there. – Sean CJ Sep 4 '18 at 7:06

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