6 Ideas for Writing in the Real World

Do your students feel uncomfortable writing in the real world?  This is a fair concern, and in fact, I can definitely relate to that—when I started to learn English, I was afraid of making mistakes, which oftentimes made me quite anxious.  I eventually overcame this fear with the help of my patient teachers and their authentic assignments that allowed me to practice English beyond the classroom.

There are a whole variety of strategies and activities that could help your students write outside the classroom.  I wanted to share some of them, and I’d be happy to learn about your ideas and practices.  Whereas you are most likely familiar with all of these types of written communication, you might not have viewed them as an exercise for writing in the real world.

E-mails to Friends

E-mails are a quick way of exchanging information between two or more people.  Encourage your students to write e-mails to their friends, family members, or even classmates.  E-mail writing offers lots of ideas that you can incorporate in your class; teaching about the components of an e-mail is one of them.  In one of my previous posts, I described these components as I discussed the formal type of e-mails.  Most of these components, if not all, relate to informal e-mails as well.  Politeness, the use of colloquial language, and e-mail etiquette could also be addressed to help your students better socialize into this type of written communication.


Texting could be a great opportunity to incorporate the use of cell phones, which typically seem to be quite disruptive.  It’s also a good chance to teach about “text speak,” acronyms, and abbreviations.

Online Chatting (or Instant Messaging)

Online chatting provides the teacher with the opportunity to talk about proper language and careful word choice.  Unlike face-to-face communication, in online chatting, people cannot hear each other’s tone of voice or see each other’s facial expressions; therefore, the knowledge about how to appropriately communicate intentions and ideas comes in handy.


Since invitations can be formal and informal, you can, once again, teach students about the proper use of language.  Bringing in the concept of audience may also help students understand how their language, the tone of the invitation message, and even the choice of visuals may be influenced by the relationships between the sender and the recipient.

Thank-You Letters/Notes/Cards

We use thank-you letters/notes/cards to thank people for gifts, assistance, services, events, information, favors, etc.  However, it’s sometimes difficult to know whether or not to send a thank-you letter.  Help your students understand that in some situations, a thank-you note is expected, and by not sending one, a person may be considered rude or ungrateful.  Give students a list of situations in which a thank-you note would be considered a polite gesture.  By providing real examples, you will also help them understand the differences between thank-you letters composed for various purposes and audiences.  Finally, it may also be helpful to give them examples of phrases to express gratitude, pleasure, and appreciation.

Some of these expressions may include: I am deeply appreciative of _________. Thank you so much for ____________. It was very nice of you to __________. How gracious of you to ___________. I just wanted to thank you for ______.


Postcards are a way of sending short messages to friends or family members.  Writing a postcard may seem easy and straightforward, and yet, it provides room for teaching a meaningful lesson.  For example, students should know that postcards are not used for sharing bad news or sending urgent, important, or private information.  Because postcards are usually sent to provide a “snapshot” of travel adventures, you could also teach students how to write concise, yet fun-to-read messages.

Writing should not be considered a burden or a fear-producing activity!  By incorporating fun and meaningful activities in your class, you can motivate students to use their writing skills to communicate with people in the real world.

What strategies or activities have you used in your classroom to get students acquainted with real-world writing?

About Elena Shvidko

Elena Shvidko
Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. She received her doctorate in second language studies from Purdue University and her master’s degree in TESOL from Brigham Young University. Her work appears in TESOL Journal, System, Journal on Response to Writing, TESOL interest section newsletters, and TESOL's New Ways series. Her research interests include second language writing, multimodal interaction, interpersonal aspects of language teaching, and teacher professional development.
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4 Responses to 6 Ideas for Writing in the Real World

  1. Jose Puac says:

    Hi Elena:

    Can you suggest me a specific textbook to teach intermediate level students of english?

    thanks for your help.

  2. Elena Shvidko Elena Shvidko says:

    Thank you for your feedback, Sonia! Enjoy teaching!

  3. Marc says:

    Hi Elena,
    Thanks you so much for you concept. can you please suggest me I want to learn language online because I have not too much time is it safe? Waiting for your Answer. Take care.

  4. sonia says:


    Elena, thank you very much for sharing such a wonderful concept!


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