Reading and Writing

English Reading and Writing Skills

Reading and writing skills are heavily related in language learning. You need to be able to read in English to understand all English written text, whether you are trying to read a menu in a restaurant, a traffic sign in the road, a letter from the bank or an email from a friend.


Writing skills are needed to make yourself understood in English written communication, from formal usage when writing business letters to social contexts such as writing notes to friends.

Reading in English

Reading is a passive skill of language learning (the other passive skill is listening). When learning English, try to read as much material written in the English language as possible. This is a great way to develop your vocabulary as you will meet new words in new situations.

Reading skills quotation by Dr Seuss

All reading material counts towards your reading practice, whether you enjoy grappling with novels and short stories, reading newspapers or browsing websites in English.

Reading will help you to develop a sense of which words are best used in which situations. Slight variations in nuance will become clearer the more you read English and the more different situations and contexts you read about.

Reading and writing skills are so closely related, developing your reading skills will always help to improve your writing skills.


Improving your English reading skills

It is useful to read a wide variety of different kinds of material. Reading English language newspapers is an excellent way to practise reading skills in short bursts.

News stories and light-hearted features will give you an idea of serious language and lighter language and the appropriate time for both.

Comics strips and cartoons are another good way to have fun whilst improving your reading and comprehension skills. English language cartoons and comics also offer visual clues about the context which can be helpful for learners.

If you can understand the jokes in newspaper cartoons, you are on your way to using the English language for humour and puns!

English reading skills - newspaper

Writing in English

Writing, or orthography, is often seen as the most difficult aspect of learning a language. The way words are written can appear very different from the way in which they are pronounced.

The English alphabet itself may be completely different from the alphabet some learners are used to, which creates a new learning task in itself: learning the English alphabet.


English writing has its own etiquette depending on what you are writing. When writing a letter in English, for example, there are certain beginnings and endings which are commonly used in different circumstances.

Please see our letter writing guide for more details about this skill.

University students need to employ their writing skills for their academic essays, using the English language in a specific way for academic purposes. Read more about using Academic English.

Practising your English writing skills

In order to get writing practice it can be helpful to write using the English language whenever you can. For example, you could write lists of things you need to do or groceries you need to buy.

In doing this, you will find new vocabulary and by writing these things down you will learn new spellings. Write e-mails and notes in English whenever you can.

An alternative way to employ writing skills is to write in a diary or journal in English. You can make notes on your day, writing up what you did, where you went, what you enjoyed or learned etc. You will be practising the past tense as well as your writing skills.

Improving you English creative writing skills

It is important for EFL students to think creatively about their writing as a method of communication rather than simply concentrating on finding the correct grammar structures and focusing entirely on the mechanics of writing.

Writing creatively is what makes language come alive and take on new meanings.

Snoopy developing his writing skills

Improving your English writing skills means more than using new words in the grammatically correct way.

When learning to write, students are often expected to be able to compose text with the ability to transform information and create a creative piece of writing from scratch.


However, many ESL students learning to write English in school do not have much exposure to creative writing and are only capable of ‘re-telling’ an existing composition.

Creative writing skills require more work and are something to develop as your vocabulary and grammar improve.

Check out our English language writing guide for more tips and our academic English guide for advice on writing for academic purposes.

Do you have any tips for improving English reading skills?


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