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English Composition Writing Tips

If you want to score higher marks for English composition writing (English Paper 1), you have to know the mistakes to avoid in order to write good English compositions. These are common mistakes made by students when they are writing their compositions. Fortunately, you can learn to avoid these mistakes.

Most parents and school teachers do not start the year getting their children to write. Many students usually start writing in Term 2, when the SA1 approaches.

The thing is, by then, it usually becomes a knee-jerk reaction, when we try to get students to write as many pieces of compositions as we can in the few weeks before examinations. That is also when students are the most stressed.

When students do not have ample time to practise and develop their writing skills, it is inevitable that they make these common mistakes in their compositions.

Here are 8 common mistakes to avoid in English Composition Writing:

1) Boring introductions

Some students like to begin their introductions with ‘One fine day’, ‘One sunny day’ or ‘Last Sunday’.

These are fine if you are a Primary 1 child. However, Primary 2 and above should try to come up with more interesting story beginnings.

When writing English composition, it is important to write a captivating introduction.

There are many ways you can begin a composition. The key is to get yourself familiar with the various ways so that you can choose an appropriate one for the topic you are given and the story you want to write. In this way, you will not always have to depend on the usual ‘One fine day’ beginning.


2) Irrelevant weather descriptions

This is a common mistake to avoid in English composition writing. I have come across too many compositions that start with some fanciful weather descriptions describing the clouds and colour of the sky. The funny thing is, as you read on, the weather has nothing to do with the rest of the story. It is fine if you memorise weather descriptions and use them appropriately. However, make sure they are relevant to the plot of your story!

3) Lopsided compositions

This is what I call the ‘Big Head, Small Body’ Syndrome.

Some students devote a long paragraph to the introduction and another one or two long paragraphs to the rising action. However, the main conflict of the story (which should be the juiciest and most exciting part) is written in one to two sentences and the story ends. Now, this is a sign of poor time management and poor planning. It is definitely one of the big mistakes to avoid in English composition writing as this will affect your marks for content.

4) Telling, not showing

Interesting compositions are engaging. Readers are able to visualise the events and characters in their minds. That is made possible when writers paint pictures with their words. This writing technique is known as ‘Show, Not Tell’. Unfortunately, many students ‘tell’ and not ‘show’ when writing their composition. In order to get high marks for language and content, one must master the technique of ‘show, not tell’.

5) Under-developed plot 

A story plot is made up of the main events of a story. Students should plan the story plot before setting out to write a composition. “But, I do not have time to plan!” This is a common remark made by most students. Although it is true that students do not have ample time to plan, especially during examinations, it is still not impossible to do so.

You do not have to come up with an elaborate plan. All you need to do is to spend 3 to 5 minutes to quickly decide on and list down the main events of your story so that you can develop them in greater detail when you are writing your composition.

Too many students write compositions with missing details or gaps in their stories. That is a result of not planning and having the main events clearly listed before writing the actual composition.

The main parts of a composition usually consist of the introduction, the events leading to the problem (or rising action), the problem (or climax), the resolution (or falling action) and finally, the conclusion.

Practise listing the main events before writing your composition and you will be able to work towards avoiding the mistake of writing an under-developed composition.

6) Abrupt conclusion

This is another common mistake to avoid in English composition writing. It is a pity to read compositions that are beautifully written from the introduction to the climax, only to have it end abruptly.

The main reasons for this mistake are poor time management and not having ample practice. You might have spent too much time developing the beginning and the body of the story. When you come to the conclusion, you realise that there is not much time left, so you rush through your conclusion before submitting your paper. Your story comes to an abrupt end as a result.

If you have ample practice prior to your composition examinations, you will know how to move from the introduction to the conclusion. Consistent practice of writing within the time limit of 50 minutes helps you to avoid this mistake too.

7) No variation in sentence beginnings

A common mistake made by even the more advanced writers is not having a variety of sentence beginnings. Many students like to begin their sentences with a noun (eg. a character’s name such as John, Tim, Jane) or a pronoun (eg. He, She, We, They, It). After reading consecutive sentences beginning with the same word, the story gets a little draggy and boring.

Avoid this mistake by having a variety of sentence beginnings. If your previous sentence begins with ‘He’, do not begin the next sentence with ‘He’ again. Think of another word to begin your sentence.

8) GPS errors

GPS stands for Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling. These are areas that can cause you to lose marks in the Language component of your composition examinations. You can avoid making GPS errors by reading through your composition after writing and checking for these errors. Of course, that means you need to allocate about 5 minutes at the end to do the checking and editing. Good time management plays a part here too.

Now that you know the mistakes to avoid in English compositions, do make a conscious effort to avoid them. Good writers are made, not born. We have seen many students improve their writing after putting in months of consistent practice.

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