1 Diagnostic: Writing in English and Writing in Your First Language

hand writing on paper

Many instructors want you to provide a writing sample. Why? Well, an instructor can look at your writing sample and quickly see what you already know about the common rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. The instructor can also get a good feeling for your natural range of vocabulary as well as a clear picture of how you organize your ideas. If an instructor asks for a writing sample during class, then they can also see your level of fluency, that is, how much and how accurately you can write within a short time.

Instructors can learn a lot about a student’s current abilities, and that helps to guide the instructor when making lessons for the course. For example, if students demonstrate that they can already write clear topic sentences, then the instructor will focus on other things. Finally, it’s useful to compare a writing sample from the beginning of the course with a writing sample from the end of the course in order to show improvements in your writing over time.

How do you prepare a writing sample?

Think about writing in English and writing in your first language. What is the same? What is different? What is easy? What is difficult? In your opinion, how does your culture influence your writing?

  1. Write a paragraph. Begin with a topic sentence that clearly and directly states your idea. Then add supporting details to explain your idea. Wrap up your paragraph with a final thought or comment about your idea.
  2. Exchange your work with another student. Read what they wrote. Reply to them in another paragraph. Don’t say only things like “I agree” or “You’re right.” Try to add something meaningful to the discussion. Then return this to your partner.
  3. Finally, read what your classmate wrote in reply to your paragraph. Then write a few sentences to share your reaction. Give this to your teacher; they will offer feedback on your writing.


Here are some sentences with common errors. Follow the instructions to practice editing.


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