Public Relations Today
Jayne Miller By Jayne Miller • September 16, 2015

Say This, Not That: Common Editing Instructions We Can Improve


Our MarkUp Annotator is pretty neat. Once work is submitted, an instructor may comment, highlight, or draw on the assignment. There are lots of ways to offer feedback without ever leaving your Chalkup workflow. (We’re big fans.)

When it comes to leaving great feedback, instructors have their own tried and true methods of showing a student how he or she could improve their work. We know some rely on a rubric-based system, while others use our inline commenting feature to leave lots of notes.

We researched ways to improve the feedback routinely given to students during the editing and revision process - improvements that can easily be applied in our MarkUp Annotator. All are small changes that can make a big impact.

(PS - we’re interested in what’s worked for you. Would love to hear what comments/instruction you’ve tweaked during the feedback process to great success. Leave us your story in the comments.)

Switch “Don’t...” for “Next time….”

It’s a small change, but a good one. When you spot something on an assignment that needs work, illustrating what to do next time can be more impactful than telling a student not to do something. A “don’t” statement says less about how to improve than a statement that substitutes (or adds) instruction for how to do better.

Trade “Great job” for “Great job because x”

Everyone loves to hear they did a great job. And perhaps your student really did nail this latest assignment. But the problem with “great job” is this: it’s not specific. There is no indication of what was done that was successful, and no indication of how to replicate this success in future projects. Try adding “because” to your comment and finishing the statement.

Avoid “Not there yet” in favor of “Need to work on x”

Similarly, the blanket “not quite there yet comment” fails to identify the areas in which a student needs work. Is it tone? Is it a good copyedit? Was an idea or theory improperly applied in the content? “Not there yet” could mean a lot of things. Substituting a statement that lists the areas that need work provide a little more direction on what to do next.

Change “Recommend doing x or y” to “You decide if you want to do x or y”

Perhaps you want to recommend that a student do one of two things to an assignment. Maybe the suggestion is picking between two apparent themes in a paper. It’s easy to say that you “recommend” a student do one of these two things, but more empowering is telling the student that he or she may “decide to do x or y.” This small change shifts decision-making back to the student and increases their sense of ownership in the product. The result is less “I’m making this change because my teacher told me to” and more “I’m deciding to make this change because it’s what I think is best.”


To the Glossary!