1. Logic and organizational issues

Depending on your native language, you might have noticed that the structure of sentences in English is completely different. 

As an SVO (Subject + Verb + Object) language, English differs from many other languages. In fact, 43% of the world’s languages, including Japanese, Korean, German, and Turkish, follow the SOV order. Others follow VSO, VOS, and even OVS or OSV. 

And, while the language may not directly affect how you think, it can affect how you see the world around you. This is one reason why it’s so important to avoid translating in your head.

This is not to say that other languages aren’t logical. But most English writing is about communicating effectively and simply, so it’s good to keep this in mind if your mother tongue follows a completely different structure. 

Basically, when you write, ask yourself: How can I make my point clearly in English?

Organizing your sentences

Stay away from run-on sentences. 

A run-on sentence is when two sentences are incorrectly combined into one sentence without the right punctuation or conjunction that you need to combine them. 

Once you understand that every sentence in English needs a subject and a verb, you’ll know how to identify a run-on sentence, such as this one:

We met in a bar in Paris and I’ll never forget him.

We have two ideas here joined together by the word and, but because this is a compound sentence, we need a comma before and. 

Just remember this: if a sentence after a conjunction like and, but, or, or so can work as its own sentence (which means it has a subject and a verb), you’ll always need a comma before the conjunction.

And if you’ve been wondering how to use the semicolon, you can use it in place of a conjunction like or, so, and, or but.

We met in a bar in Paris; I’ll never forget him.

Keep your verbs close to your nouns. 

It’s not that it’s grammatically wrong to put too many words or phrases between your nouns and verbs. But it’s hard for English speakers to read because we’re used to seeing subjects and verbs close together. In simpler terms, it’s not as direct.

Notice how the first sentence below is a bit more awkward in English.

My mom, when she calls me, always wants to complain. 

My mom always wants to complain when she calls me.

Avoid the passive voice if you can.

It’s not the passive voice isn’t logical, but in a passive sentence, the focus is on the object, not on the subject, which can be confusing in English. 

Every task has always been completed on time by me. (passive voice)

I have always completed every task on time. (active voice)

Organizing your ideas in paragraphs

This can be an issue for anyone writing in any language, so if it’s a problem in your native language, it might have followed you across the language barrier when you’re writing in English.

To write effectively and make yourself clear to the writer, your ideas should be logically connected. This doesn’t mean that everything has to be organized in your head! But if you’re like me, and you like to let words flow out of you, you’ll have to organize your writing in the editing process.

So how can you organized your writing in English?

Use transitional words and phrases.

If you want to put your information in order of importance, use transition words like, most importantly, secondly, in addition, or ultimately.

When you’re organizing according to cause and effect, use phrases like as a result, because of this, or in order to.

If you want to follow a chronological order, especially in history or recounting events or stories, use words like initially, before, since, finally, or at the time. 

And if you’re comparing and contrasting, you can use expressions such as while, in contrast, on the other hand, or from another perspective.

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