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10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills

10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills

Whether you’re learning English as an additional language or you’re aiming to hone your writing skills, there are countless books out there that promise to help you ameliorate your skills. Some of those books are fabulous, while others are practically useless. Let’s take a look at some of the best books to help you improve your English, whether you’re an ESL student or an aspiring novelist.

Beginner’s English (suitable for ESL students)

Words-are-categorical

    Words are Categorical series, by Brian P. Cleary

    I absolutely love these books for children and ESL adults alike, as they clarify parts of speech in a way that’s hilarious and endearing. With titles such as Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? and Thumbtacks, Earwax, Lipstick, Dipstick: What Is a Compound Word?, you know you’re in for a fun time. Although the link above will take you to a boxed set, the books are also available individually.

    Mac-English-covers-1-young-640x406

      MacMillan English School Books

      These are essential for anyone who’s learning English as a second language (ESL). English is an extremely complicated language, and unless you’ve grown up speaking, reading, and writing it, there are subtle nuances that take a long time to pick up. These books cover a wide range of skill levels, and can help you polish up both your writing and conversational skills.

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      General/Intermediate English (high school/early college level)

      eats-shoots-and-leaves-front

        Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss

        This book is a brilliant reference for writers of all ages, but I tend to recommend it to high school and college students because it’s funny, clever, and explains punctuation in a memorable way. Remember that good punctuation is vital, as it’s the key to either knowing your shit, or knowing you’re shit.

        big-book-of-words

          The Big Book of Words You Should Know, by David Olsen, Michelle Bevilacqua, and Justin Cord Hayes

          If you’d like to expand your vocabulary, this is the book for you. By learning words like “halcyon” and “sagagious” (which you may come across in books or wish to add into your own writing) as well as “schlimazel” and “thaumaturgy” (ask your English teacher to define those on the spot!), your fluency with this magnificent language will explode in the most brilliant way imaginable.

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          mother-tongue

            The Mother Tongue – English, and How It Got That Way, by Bill Bryson

            Everything this author writes is pure genius, and The Mother Tongue is no exception. Bryson weaves a fascinating tale about the origins of the English language, and peppers it with solid insight about the utter weirdness that abounds in the language.

            gardner_art_of_fiction1

              The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, by John Gardner

              A vital resource for anyone who intends to write fiction, this book will help you craft a refined sentence, develop characters that readers don’t want to disembowel, and avoid trite cliches. Gardner’s a tough teacher, but if you can put your own delicate ego aside, you can learn a lot from this book.

              elements-of-style

                The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White

                This is probably one of the best go-to books for composition and style. If you only want a few reference books in your library that deal with English grammar and writing, let this be one of them.

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                Gregg Reference Manual

                  The Gregg Reference Manual, by William Sabin

                  Probably the most comprehensive guide for style, grammar, usage, and formatting, it’s as beneficial to students as it is for those in business. It really does contain everything you need to know about composing documents, essays, and letters, with tips on how to address various people (senators, bishops, military personnel), and much more.

                  Advanced English (college grads, professional writers)

                  misplaced-modifier

                    The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, by Bonnie Trenga

                    Even those who have a fair bit of writing experience can mess up when it comes to modifiers, and this fun little volume prods your brain-meat to remind you of proper word placement when constructing sentences.

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                    Chicago Style

                      The Chicago Manual of Style

                      This book is probably the most invaluable reference for anyone who writes for a North American audience. Whether you’re addressing a letter to a foreign dignitary, citing a study when creating an academic paper, or proofreading another person’s work, this book will guide you through all the writing rules you could ever need.

                      As a side recommendation, I find the Oxford Style Manual to be of great help when working for clients in the UK, as there are certain differences in writing standards on either side of the pond, and having a strong grasp of both can only be of benefit to any writer.

                      There are many other resources that may be of benefit to writers of all skill levels, but the books on this list are some of the best and most well-rounded. They’ll provide a great foundation to one’s writing practice, and although doing so may seem counterintuitive, writers may be surprised at what can be gleaned by revisiting some of the basics, or delving into manuals that may seem more advanced than what they’re accustomed to.

                      More by this author

                      Catherine Winter

                      Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

                      10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Day 30 Awesome DIY Projects that You’ve Never Heard of 20 Online Resources for Free E-Books 10 Books to Help You Polish Your English & Writing Skills 10 Things That Even You Can Do to Change the World

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                      Last Updated on September 28, 2020

                      How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

                      How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

                      The brain is a tangled web of information. We don’t remember single facts, but instead we interlink everything by association. Anytime we experience a new event, our brains tie the sights, smells, sounds and our own impressions together into a new relationship.

                      Our brain remembers things by repetition, association, visual imagery, and all five senses. By knowing a bit about how the brain works, we can become better learners, absorbing new information faster than ever.

                      Here are some study tips to help get you started:

                      1. Use Flashcards

                      Our brains create engrained memories through repetition. The more times we hear, see, or repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to remember it.

                      Flashcards can help you learn new subjects quickly and efficiently. Flashcards allow you to study anywhere at any time. Their portable nature lends them to quick study sessions on the bus, in traffic, at lunch, or in the doctor’s office. You can always whip out your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

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                      To create effective flashcards, you need to put one point on each flashcard. Don’t load up the entire card with information. That’s just overload. Instead, you should dedicate one concept to each card.

                      One of the best ways to make flashcards is to put 1 question on the front and one answer on the back. This way, you can repeatedly quiz yourself into you have mastered any topic of your choice.

                      Commit to reading through your flash cards at least 3 times a day and you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up new information.

                      As Tony Robbins says,

                      “Repetition is the mother of skill”.

                      2. Create the Right Environment

                      Often times, where you study can be just as important as how you study. For an optimum learning environment, you’ll want to find a nice spot that is fairly peaceful. Some people can’t stand a deafening silence, but you certainly don’t want to study near constant distractions.

                      Find a spot that you can call your own, with plenty of room to spread out your stuff. Go there each time you study and you will find yourself adapting to a productive study schedule. When you study in the same place each time, you become more productive in that spot because you associate it with studying.

                      3. Use Acronyms to Remember Information

                      In your quest for knowledge, you may have once heard of an odd term called “mnemonics”. However, even if you haven’t heard of this word, you have certainly heard of its many applications. One of the most popular mnemonic examples is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. This is an acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.

                      An acronym is simply an abbreviation formed using the intial letters of a word. These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time.

                      4. Listen to Music

                      Research has long shown that certain types of music help you to recall information. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be remembered simply by “playing” the songs mentally in your head.

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                      5. Rewrite Your Notes

                      This can be done by hand or on the computer. However, you should keep in mind that writing by hand can often stimulate more neural activity than when writing on the computer.

                      Everyone should study their notes at home but often times, simply re-reading them is too passive. Re-reading your notes can cause you to become disengaged and distracted.

                      To get the most out of your study time, make sure that it is active. Rewriting your notes turns a passive study time into an active and engaging learning tool. You can begin using this technique by buying two notebooks for each of your classes. Dedicate one of the notebooks for making notes during each class. Dedicate the other notebook to rewriting your notes outside of class.

                      6. Engage Your Emotions

                      Emotions play a very important part in your memory. Think about it. The last time you went to a party, which people did you remember? The lady who made you laugh, the man who hurt your feelings, and the kid who went screaming through the halls are the ones you will remember. They are the ones who had an emotional impact.

                      Fortunately, you can use the power of emotion in your own study sessions. Enhance your memory by using your five senses. Don’t just memorize facts. Don’t just see and hear the words in your mind. Create a vivid visual picture of what you are trying to learn.

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                      For example, if you are trying to learn the many parts of a human cell, begin physically rotating the cell in your minds eye. Imagine what each part might feel like. Begin to take the cell apart piece by piece and then reconstruct it. Paint the human cell with vivid colors. Enlarge the cell in your mind’s eye so that it is now six feet tall and putting on your own personal comedy show. This visual and emotional mind play will help deeply encode information into your memory.

                      7. Make Associations

                      One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what you want to learn with something you already know. This is known as association, and it is the mental glue that drives your brain.

                      Have you ever listened to a song and been flooded by memories that were connected to it? Have you ever seen an old friend that triggered memories from childhood? This is the power of association.

                      To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly be looking for ways to relate new information with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar with.

                      You can do this with the use of mindmapping. A mind map is used to diagram words, pictures, thoughts, and ideas into a an interconnected web of information. This simple practice will help you to connect everything you learn into a global network of knowledge that can be pulled from at any moment.

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                      Learn more about mindmapping here: How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

                      Featured photo credit: Alissa De Leva via unsplash.com

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