How to sound natural in your writing

How to sound natural in your writing

Sounding natural when you may not already possess a level of fluency takes some practice.

When it comes to the IELTS Writing exam, the examiners look for natural sounding writing. Speaking and writing naturally implies you know the language well, and that you have spent time learning the language, not simply how to pass the exam.

4 ways to improve English writing skills

  1. Reading. Read different text types to improve your writing skills. (newspaper articles, online articles, blog posts, interviews, leaflets- just make sure its varied so your exposure of language is wide.
  2. Keep a diary in English. Note down a brief summary of what you have done every day, or at least every other, and you will begin to build vocabulary and your grammar will improve.
  3. With your diary/notes, practice expanding and improving sentences that are simple. I.e. 'I went to the gym today', 'I walked to the gym earlier today, and on my way, I passed a shop that I hadn't seen before. I will go to this shop next week.' Create more detail to your sentences, and vary your tenses.
  4. Collect vocabulary. It doesn't need to be every new word you come across, but when reading different types of text, make a rule of thumb- collect five a day and try to put them into sentences.

Examples of natural English

Here, I will use some material from the IELTS Writing exam to give examples of what natural and unnatural looks like.

The first will use an example from IELTS Writing Task 1 question (Academic)

the second with IELTS Writing Task 2 question (Academic)

and finally with IELTS Writing Task 1 (General).

IELTS Writing Task 1 (Academic)- Pie chart.

Unnatural- These comparative pie charts presenting data reveal the varying and divergent online sales for retail sectors in Canada in 2005 and in 2010. The charts compare four categories; electronics and appliances and home furnishings, on top of food and beverage and video games. There are many percentages overall and four sections within each pie chart for us to make observations about.

The problem- This doesn't sound natural because it is overly wordy and has no likeness to how someone would speak this information. Some of the vocabulary also isn't accurate and it states obvious things, that we don't really need to say at all.

Natural- These pie charts compare four retail sectors in Canada, in terms of the proportion of their internet sales in 2005 and 2010.

IELTS Writing Task 2 (Academic)- Direct Question Essay.

Today’s fresh food like vegetables or fruits travels thousands of miles from the rural areas before it reaches customers in urban areas. Why is this? Is this a positive or negative trend?

Unnatural- We need food to survive, simple. Whether that derives from a supermarket or farm, does it truly matter in the end though? But it depends muchly on where you live that can dictate one's viewpoint on this. Some may think the possibility of delivering food anywhere, just think of planes, but others might view it as a grave danger because it imposes on their natural way of living, is economically unjust and essentially makes those that grow and harvest it, the ones that lose out enormously with grave consequences. In my opinion, personally, I support the distribution of food rooting from rural areas, to populous and urban populations.

The problem- This is too long for an introduction. The tone at points is too conversational. The vocabulary at points feels too forced, simply because they want to use 'big words', but we have to use these when they enrich and compliment the idea and sentence.

Natural- Food is a fundamental part of our survival. There are indeed complications with rural to urban food distribution, such as the impact on the environment. There is however a global market which enables food exportation from far flung places. This enriches the meeting of cultures, the travel industry and much more. In my opinion, food distribution is a positive thing if done correctly.

IELTS Writing Task 1 (General)- Letters.

You arranged to visit a friend in Spain but an important event at home now means that you must change the dates of the visit.

Write a letter to your friend. In your letter

  • explain the important event
  • apologise for the situation
  • suggest a new arrangement



How is life? I am afraid something has suddenly risen meaning I won't be able to make it to Spain anymore. I'm so very down about this. My regular team is going national and I have to stay here to practice until the tournament is seen through to the end. It's been extremely unexpected and I mustn't let the team down. My boss will kill me! I hope we can rearrange instead later month, I hope I haven't rained on your parade.

The problem

This doesn't meet the features of a letter. Although this is an informal task, there is a boundary of how informal you can be. So 'how is life' is tipping into writing without consideration of the task. Some of the language is incorrect and not suited to the task; my boss, regular team, kill me, rained on your parade'. There is incorrect grammar.


Dear Sam,

How are things with you? I'm afraid something has come up here which will probably effect my visit to Spain. Last week I was chosen to play netball for my regional team in a national tournament. It was completely unexpected. I'm sorry but this probably means that I probably won't be able to visit you for the first week of January, as we planned. I must stay here and practise until the tournament begins, later that month.

Key things to take away about being natural

  1. With task 1 for the academic paper, remember to use specific vocabulary and be as clear as possible. The more you complicate it, the less natural it will sound.
  2. With task 2 for the academic paper, you need to have a good range of vocabulary to add clarity and detail to your sentences. Stick to the structure and give an idea at a time with clear explanation and example, then move on. Don't over jumble.
  3. With task 1 for the general paper, you need to remember your; purpose, audience, and tone. (PAT). Why are you writing the letter? Who is your audience? What tone is appropriate? This will help with a natural sounding letter. And you must have the right features of a letter.

For all of these nuances to come to fruition, and naturally be part of your reading and writing skill set, making reading and writing a regular part of your IELTS preparation is what will create that natural flow to your writing, and increase the likelihood of a high band score.