Commenting on Writing

It can sometimes feel overwhelming to comment on a paper that contains a great deal of non-standard English. What is important to remember is that not everything needs to be noted or edited by an instructor for a student to improve. Too much commenting can actually have the opposite effect, leaving students feeling equally overwhelmed.

When deciding what to give feedback on, it is best to prioritize commenting. Generally students can improve the most when instructors focus first on content and organization, and second on language/mechanics. It may help to ask the following questions (in order of priority) and comment on the most important elements first:

Structure: Does the writing have a clear structure? If not, what elements are lacking or confusing? (introduction, thesis, body paragraphs, headings when required, conclusion, etc.)

Content: Is the content adequate? What may be missing that is needed? (arguments/topic sentences, support, examples, discussion, analysis, clear citation/referencing, etc.)

Unclear Language: Is there language or sentence structure that impedes understanding the writer’s arguments?

Stigmatizing Language: Is there language that does not interfere with clarity or understanding but does stigmatize the student’s writing?

Correctable Language: Is there language that can easily be corrected by the student if identified?

The menu to the left provides more detailed advice about:

Commenting on Content and Organization

Commenting on Language and Mechanics

Assessing NNS Writing