Most common mistake when teaching writing

What’s the difference between revising and editing a piece of writing?  Many people, including tutors and professionals, confuse the two.

Revising is the process of expanding and clarifying what is written and should be done before the piece is edited.  The writer may revise a piece several times.  The tutor uses questions to get the learner to do the work.  Strategies could include the following:

  • Ask what the piece is about, who the audience is and how this should affect the audience.
  • Have the learner read the piece to you and then discuss the content.  Ask if the topic is clear and can any details be added, changed or taken out to make the ideas clearer.
  • Are the ideas put in a logical order?
  • The tutor reads the piece aloud as the learner listens critically.  You might ask, “Does this say what you want it to say?” “What do you like best about it?”  “Can you do anything to improve it?”

When you make suggestions, use the form of questions, such as

  • What would happen if …..?
  • How would it sound if…..
  • When this happened, what else did you notice?

Editing involves correcting the grammar, spelling, sentence structure, punctuation, capitalization, etc.  In other words, editing works on the mechanics.  We don’t want to overwhelm the learner—just work on one or two errors or one general principle at a time.  It is very important to encourage the writer that the message is more important than spelling, grammar or penmanship.  Show the learner that you value and understand what (s)he has written by responding to the message before correcting minor errors. This may give the learner the courage to actually use writing.

Regardless of whether the writing is a personal letter, essay or term paper, the process is the same.

-A lesson in writing compliments of Olive Burkard,
Certified ProLiteracy Trainer, Lake County Library System

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