How I work on my writing as a non-native speaker

Alexei Sorokin
5 min readMay 26

I’m not humble about my writing skills — they’re fine. And I like writing. Though I’m fluent in English, there is no question that it’s my second language. I learned it in my mid-teens, and I speak with a slight accent. There is no “accent” in writing, but I still struggle with articles, for example. Oh, the irony — just there, in the previous sentence, I started to doubt: should I have said “struggle with THE articles? After all, there are only three very specific articles in English. If I write a piece long enough, there is a high probability I will make minor mistakes, though most readers probably won’t attribute them to me being a foreigner.

Here are some principles and methods I follow in my writing.

  • I have been using the premium version of Grammarly, but only for a few months. It’s fine. I accept about half of the suggestions.
  • If I doubt how to use a particular word, construct, or expression, I put inverted commas around it and do Google search. On the desktop version, Google shows how many times it finds the exact inputted combination. So going back to the example above, I can compare “struggle with articles” to “struggles with the articles.”
  • The Russian language at my Soviet and then Russian schools in the 1980s and then early 1990s was the most difficult class. You get penalized for every spelling, grammatical, and punctuation mistake in your essay. A handful of mistakes, some of which are minor, bring your grade down to fail. My Mom taught me one very simple rule to reduce the risk of mistakes: if you’re unsure how to write a word or where to put a comma in a sentence, rephrase. Unless you’re being dictated to (and that exercise, by the way, existed), no one’s forcing you to write something you’re unsure about. I use this rule to this very date. Instead of figuring out how to be correct about something very narrow, I reconstruct my writing in a way that removes the doubt altogether.
  • My approach to writing is relaxed and frivolous. It’s a very conscious strategy. When I write a book — I am trying to — it will need to be perfect, so I’ll have to work with professional editors. With casual writing, however, or even with business writing, I am not trying to achieve perfection. I don’t sweat about punctuation, for example, or making minor mistakes. My voice is my voice. In the world of business, there are two types of people, I noticed. Type A writes their every email perfectly. There can never be a…
Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. More here: