Avoiding red ink has been the simplest commentary strategy I have had to learn during my first two months of training as a Writing Fellow. Another strategy that I have acquired relatively easily is addressing problems with a facilitative rather than a directive approach because of my personal experiences and reactions to directive comments on my writing. As examples, the vague "unclear" rubber stamp frustrates me because I'm not told where my sentence or paragraph is confusing. Excessive markings such as circles, underlining, deletions, and insertions irritate me because my personal hard work has become the teacher's own vision of what is good writing. Short imperative statements such as, "You must improve your organization," aggravate me because they are not explicative enough to guide me on how I would revise.
Even though I have quickly acquired some of basic skills of writing facilitative commentary, there are a couple of personal challenges remaining. First, I would like to increase my efficiency in writing commentary. At present I spend about an hour commenting on a single draft, depending on the number and severity of the problems. I assume that the long length of time is due to my inexperience and unfamiliarity with writing facilitative commentary. I assume that my efficiency will increase with practice. However, I do not want to compensate the quality of my commentary in order to increase my efficiency. As I read and write commentary on more drafts, finding the right words to address the problems in ways that benefit writers and not just their writing will become easier. My goal is to cut down the time commenting on a single draft to a half hour or less. One strategy that might help me achieve this goal is to read through a draft once before writing any commentary. This way I familiarize myself with the draft and choosing the two or three most problematic areas becomes easier.
I also assume that practice will allow me to overcome my second challenge: learning all the do's and don'ts of writing commentary! I find that with each commentary exercise in English 376 I pick up something new, usually by the way of making a mistake. Fortunately, I am learning from my mistakes and I avoid repeating the same mistake in subsequent exercises. For example, my previous mistakes have included rubber stamping, failing to notice that the writer did not follow the assignment, and repeating the same suggestion throughout the commentary which not only made the commentary quite long but would have frustrated the writer to see the same suggestion given over and over. Because my professor indicated the potential consequences of these mistakes, I am consciously aware to avoid making them in the future. As my training continues I'm looking forward to acquiring new knowledge about effective commentary strategies.
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