Sample Language Comment Bank

Direct, concrete commenting at the point of error can be very helpful to the development of NNS students' writing skills. Below are categories of common language issues along with several sample comments. 

Formal/academic/sophisticated style
(See PowerPoint slides on academic voice/sophisticated writing)

*This is considered a cliché and isn’t usually used in academic writing.
*Avoid contractions in formal writing.
*XX is a more formal or academic word. (Provide the alternative word.)
*This word is too informal/too formal. Do you know another word? (You can also provide an alternative if they can’t provide a substitute.)
*Your grammar is fairly good, but your writing doesn’t sound very academic or professional. You have several very informal phrases here.

Sentence Structure
*Break this long sentence into two sentences.
*You have several informal transitions.
*Take out the unnecessary words (wordiness) in this sentence.
*This is not a sentence because there is no subject/verb. Can you fix this?
*You need a subject (I, he, it, they or a noun) in this sentence.
*You need a verb in this sentence.
*This is an incomplete sentence.
*The order of the words in this sentence is not correct. Please review sentence word order.
*This is a question, but the words are not in question order. Please fix.
*If you move this to…., your sentence will be clearer.

*Do you have a good word for this in Korean? Or
*Is this the way you would say this in Chinese? Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in English. 
*English needs more words to express this idea.
*This sentence (phrase) just doesn’t work. Can you think of another way to say the same thing? 
*Do you mean….?
*What do you mean here?
*I don’t understand this expression.
*I understand what you mean, but this is a strange way to say it. Do you mean .. (provide a possibility)

Word forms 
(See PowerPoint slides on word forms)
*This is the right word but the wrong form of the word. (ex.: success versus successful).
*You have the right word here, but the ending is wrong.

(See PowerPoint slides on prepositions after verbs and in/at)
*This is the wrong preposition. (You can also supply the correct preposition.)

(See PowerPoint slides on article use)
* the, a, and an are hard, but review the PowerPoint slides on article use.
* You must use an when the next word begins with a vowel or vowel sound.

Subject verb agreement 
(See PowerPoint slides on agreement)
*Several times you either forget an “s” on a plural noun or your verb doesn’t match the noun (plural nouns need plural verbs). Go through and check for plurals.
*Your subject (noun) doesn’t match the verb.

Verb Tenses 
(See PowerPoint slides on verbs: special verbs, reporting verbs, could and would, common verb tenses in academic writing, five verb editing rules)
*Why did you use the past tense here?
*Use the present tense.
*Use the past tense here. Go through this section and look for past tense verbs.
*Use the present perfect here.
*Use the present tense for analysis.

Non-count nouns 
(See PowerPoint slides on nouns)
*This is a non-count noun. Non-count nouns do not have s and need a singular verb (ex.: wisdom, milk, evidence, research).
*You cannot make this noun plural by adding an "s"

(See PowerPoint slides on how to improve vocabulary and grammar using the internet)
*This works well. I like the way you did…(find a sentence or even a paragraph that works, or model one that is effective.)
*I see why you want to… but it doesn’t work the way you wanted it to.
*If you do (say/write) this… the US reader will think…
*The US reader usually expects…

(Comment bank and PP presentations created by Sheryl Holt, University of Minnesota)