In her article "The Genre of the End Comment" Summer Smith explores the idea of an end comment. An end comment is the paragraph(s) at the end of the paper, in which the commentator gives summary remarks. For her article on end comments Summer Smith "analyzed 208 end comments collected from ten teaching assistants at Penn State. The comments had been written in 1993 on papers produced by students in the university's first-year composition and rhetoric courses. The 208 comments were randomly selected so that the sample includes approximately the same number of end comments from papers that received grades of A, A-, B+, and so forth through D. A small number of papers that received the grade of F were also included in the sample." (251).
End comments, as Smith discovered, tend to follow
a pattern. The "comment begins with a positive evaluation of the entire
paper (expressed all too typically as a fragment) and continues with a positive
evaluation of organization. The third [comment], an evaluation of style,
is negative. The teacher makes a second negative evaluation, this time of
correctness, before making a suggestion for the student's next paper and
offering assistance," (Smith 265).
End comments usually start out with a positive
about the paper. Every paper has a positive; it is good to mention and praise
the positive to encourage the writer. Honesty in commentary is important,
however; it is not a good idea to write insincere praise, just to write
praise. "When generic conventions [such as opening praise] become so
strong that they lead teachers to make insincere statements, teachers' credibility
and the effectiveness of the end comment may suffer" (Smith 254).
All end comments do not have to have negative feedback. For example, at the end of commentary that I wrote for a history paper, I placed the following end comment: "Overall, I enjoyed the paper. You make very perceptive comparisons between AIDS and the Black Plague. By doing this, you help your audience to understand the Black Plague and the 14th century a little bit better. If you have any questions, we can arrange for a conference or you can get in contact with me by phone or through email." The paper did have some area where it needed improvement, but those areas had been mentioned in other parts of the commentary. If, however, you must mention a point of confusion or other stumbling point that you had in the paper, do not use the word "but". But seems to invalidate earlier praise that the writer was given. Instead, phrase your confusion in questions and I statements, as I did in my end comment from my Two Page Commentary.