Learn Writing Style

Life is a journey, isn’t it?

How can ESL students learn to write with style? A great question for teachers. But, what is style?

In this English writing lesson, ESL students can learn one way to write better paragraphs. It’s not about grammar rules. Style is about writing a paragraph that looks good. When you learn three basic writing traits, you’ll be able to write stylish paragraphs.

Learn English Writing Style

Good writing style for paragraphs has three parts:

  • an interesting topic sentence
  • good organization
  • unity

We will see and learn these writing traits with a writing lesson that starts with this topic sentence:

In one paragraph compare two things. Tell us how they are similar in three ways.

I gave this topic to two students. I asked them to write their answers in 10 minutes. They finished their paragraphs in six minutes. We did one rewrite. Their paragraphs are below.

When you read the paragraphs, think about three things.

  1. Topic sentence. The first sentence tells the reader what the paragraph is about. That is good.
  2. Organization. Use words like First, Second, and Third. These transition words help the reader move smoothly through the text.
  3. Unity. Each paragraph is about one topic. Unity in writing is beautiful. Sometimes, students try to mix too many ideas in one paragraph (or one sentence). That is not good.

Student Writing

Here are two student writing samples. They are middle school students and their first language is not English. (Download a pdf here: esl-student-writing.)

School and jail are similar in many ways. First of all, I have to wear a uniform in both places. I hate wearing the same clothes as other people. Also, both places make us wear what they want. Just as if we were a doll. Second of all, I have to spend a lot of time there. At school, students have to stay from 8am to 4pm for 3 years (just counting middle school). Similarly, in jail people have to stay as long as the judge said. Finally, there is only one way to be free from school and jail. To get free from school you should graduate. To get free from jail you should wait for the day the judge said you can be free. These are the similarities between school and jail. Still, the most important thing is that I hate both places.

Fish and ducks are similar in many ways. First, they eat something to live. Fish eat seaweed and bacteria to live. Ducks eat seeds, roots, grain and small fish to live. Second, they both breathe. Even though their breathing way is different, they breathe. Fish breathe with their gills. They inhale the oxygen from the water and exhale water. Ducks breath like us. They breath in through their nose and exhale. Finally, they can swim in the water, although ducks don’t swim forever on the water. Fish live in the water and are always swimming with their tails and fin. Ducks roll their feet and legs to stay on the water. Even though people think fish and ducks are different, they are the same in many ways.

Your Writing Lesson

It’s your turn to write. Write one paragraph that answers one topic sentence.

In one paragraph compare two things. Tell us how they are similar in three ways.

When you write, think about your topic sentence, organization and unity. If your paragraph has three things, you will know how to write with style.


The image in this post comes from Víctor Nuño and its use complies with the owner’s creative commons licensing terms.

1 thought on “Learn Writing Style”

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