Notes on Commenting

As I read through your drafts, I have to play certain roles. First, I try to read your drafts as if I were a good friend and provide positive reinforcement as I go along. Second, I try to read your drafts as your worst enemy and point out areas where you failed to support your positions, did not present yourself with credibility, lacked any meaningful insights, etc. Third, I try to read your drafts as a writing coach and point out areas where you can improve. Fourth, I try to read your drafts as the person responsible for ultimately evaluating your work in this class. This fourth role is the most difficult for me because I subscribe to a simple philosophy shared by many writers: “Written work is never done; it’s just due.”

I should note that I do not comment on every error or every area that needs improvement. To do so would not help you in recognizing the errors as you revise your drafts. Rather, I comment on specific issues once or twice per draft.

In-Text Editorial Notes
I do not use many editorial notes because I prefer to write-out most of my comments. That said, in-text notes are usually directed toward a specific word or phrase. The notes are meant to help you recognize a specific editing and/or proofreading problem in your paper. Although I do not use many in-text notations, I do use several quite often.

  • A circle with a “lightning bolt” indicates that the material can be deleted. Generally, I use the circle around superfluous words or phrases, but occasionally I will draw the circle around unnecessary punctuation, especially commas. As you are editing your drafts, read the sentence without the material within the circle and see if your writing is more clear and concise.
  • An underlined or circled word or phrase with a question mark indicates that I had to stop reading for a moment. The question mark may refer to a typographical error, a spelling error, a word choice error, etc. When you see the question mark on your drafts, look closely at the indicated word or words and make sure you have spelled them correctly, typed them correctly and/or used them correctly.
  • ¶ The paragraph symbol is to the left. I often use it as shorthand for the word paragraph.
  • A checkmark indicates that something is INCORRECT in the corresponding line of text. You will need to first find the error, then correct it.

Marginal Comments
Marginal comments, like the in-text editorial notes, are directed toward a specific area of the draft. Often, they will be accompanied by a vertical line indicating which area of the draft they discuss. Marginal comments are intended to make you think about clarity, development, paragraphing and other elements of the draft. If a grammar or mechanical problem persists, I will note a section from the handbook for you to review. I also suggest that you complete any associated exercises available through the handbook’s web site and discuss the results in reflective elements of the portfolio reviews.

End Comments
I provide end comments as responses to your self-assessment. I like to think of your self-assessment and my end comments as a “conversation” about your writing process with the draft as an example. I try to make the end comments directly applicable to specific issues raised in your self-assessment. Sometimes, however, your self-assessment does not consider an important portion of your draft or your writing process that I must mention to you if you are to develop as a writer. When this happens, I will include an end comment that may seem unrelated to your self-assessment.

Your Responsibility
I spend time commenting on each of your drafts, and I expect you to spend time reading, applying and understanding the comments. When you receive a draft, read each comment and make sure you understand what revisions you can make to your draft in response. Also, look through the draft (and drafts for other assignments) for areas with similar concerns. Complete an error-checklist–link in the left sidebar. Then, of course, make the necessary changes to all of the areas of your drafts. Regardless, remember that I do not comment on every aspect of your drafts. I expect you to use my comments to improve your drafts as a whole, not just the single area on which I have commented.


  • Short Analysis #1
  • Short Analysis #2
  • Mid-Semester Portfolio
  • Research Proposal
  • Researched Analysis
  • Final Portfolio
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