When you are doing a composition you should plan it beforehand and then take your time when writing it. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to rush through it and not pay enough attention to what you are writing. Remember that you are learning a new language and it is quite different to your own language in a lot of ways so it is important to pay attention to detail and ensure that you haven´t made any mistakes.

When I correct compositions, of which I have corrected a lot, I always find the same mistakes. One of the most common mistakes I come across is sentence structure. The structure of a sentence in English is not always the same as the structure of a sentence in Spanish, Catalan or other languages. Reading a composition that uses the wrong sentence structure is a difficult thing to do. This is because a native´s brain is programmed to read in a certain way, so when the structure is reversed it is difficult to make sense of it. It also makes the composition very basic.

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As a student you strive to do your best and learn as much as you can so it is important that you uphold a high standard when it comes to writing compositions. If I could give you one tip, it would be to avoid translating from your own language into English as this often leads to mistakes, especially with sentence structure. For example, the Spanish sentence “la casa de Juan” translates directly to “the house of John”, however in English we would not say this. We say “John’s house”; we use the possessive case to signify ownership.

Another common mistake I come across in compositions is that the student follows an auxiliary verb with an infinitive with ‘to’. For example they say “I must to go”, but this is incorrect because you should say “I must go”. The only auxiliary verb in English that is followed by the infinitive with ‘to’ is ’ought’. Just remember if you have an auxiliary, with the exception of ’ought’, then you should follow it with an infinitive without ‘to’. E.g “I must do the work”.

I find that when I have to write a story it is always better to make a plan beforehand of what I am going to write about. I take a piece of paper and I draw a circle in the middle and inside the circle I write the title of the story. Then I draw lines coming out of the circle and at the end of each line I write a topic or an idea which relates to the title. When I have come up with all of my ideas, I put them in a list in the order I am going to use them in the story. In this way I have a clear idea of what I am going to write about and how I am going to structure the story.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in a composition is using the wrong tense. I often see a student using the present simple when really they should be using the present continuous or vice versa. This also goes for all the other tenses. Try to take your time and think about what you are writing. Think about the action in the sentence and when it happens. Another tip I can give you is that a composition is often written in the past tense because you are telling the story of what has already happened. For example “we were sitting at the table when the waiter brought us the food”.

If you are writing a letter to somebody, don’t say “I write to you”, you should say “I am writing to you”. Another mistake is to say “I want to explain you”. We don’t say “explain you”, we say “I want to explain something to you”. We explain things to people, we don’t explain people; it makes no sense.

Remember to separate all of your main points into paragraphs. The first paragraph should be an introduction to what the subject is. This is followed by a number of other topics and the last paragraph should be a conclusion. Remember that a good introduction and conclusion are what the reader wants from a story so try to make them interesting and to the point.

You should use adverbs, adjectives and verbs to make your story more interesting. These types of words are descriptive and they give the reader an image of what you are talking about. Use words such as firstly, excitedly, great, colourful, brilliantly, sadly, confused, quickly, slowly etc… These words make your story more descriptive and more interesting for the reader.

G. Harman

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Glenn Harman
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