Rhetoric and Composition/Grammar and Mechanics


To do:
See discussion tab for this part of the book.



Understanding Grammar


Understanding Mechanics


Common Errors


Writing feedback


Teachers can use the following pages to provide students with information about specific errors in their writing. If the students' papers are graded online, write a short comment and add a link to one of these pages.

When providing feedback to any writer, whether they are a peer or a student, there are a few general rules of thumb. Make comments specific and clear. Instead of simply using words like "good" and "awkward" to summarize a comment, try using phrases that directly state what sounds awkward or which part of the paragraph / sentence sounds good. However, do not smother the students’ paper with writing. This can be detrimental to students’ psyches and affect their writing process. Try to work with a theme. If a paper has recurring errors in a specific area, address this error once and provide the grammatical rule (if one applies) or provide an example to help the student improve.

For example, in the following sentence a writer is using two different verb tenses within the sentence.

Example: "From outside the building I could hear the opening bands tearing through their sets, and all the way from the sidewalk I felt the beat and vibrations from the drums and bass guitar literally make my rib cage shake"

Example Instructor / Peer Comment: "We have two different verb tenses within this sentence. For clarity you'll want to stick with a single verb tense. I would suggest using something like '...making my rib shake'..."

Inevitably, this type of constructive feedback will require more time with each assignment the person is grading. However, constructive criticism may be the best route to see positive and significant changes within a written work. To speed up the feedback process consider inserting links to websites like the Purdue OWL, St. Cloud State University's Literacy Education Online (LEO) or other online university writing labs. Listed below are different attitudes to consider adopting while providing feedback.

7 Types of Active Feedback

1. Correcting- removing errors or mistakes from written work

2. Emoting- adding expression or emotion to a written work

3. Describing- giving an account or conveying an idea or impression within writing

4. Suggesting- offering or proposing changes for consideration

5. Questioning- putting a question to or expressing doubt about an aspect within writing

6. Reminding- causing a person to remember or making the writer aware of something

7. Assigning- designating additional writing for a particular purpose

Attitudes as a Reader:

Editor- The editor provides feedback mainly on grammar, punctuation, syntax, sentence structure, and word choice. This type of feedback is typically time consuming. Requires thorough knowledge of standard written English in addition to strict adherence to grammar rules. Those who choose to provide editor-type should be wary that the criticism is balanced with praise.

Average Reader- The average reader feedback focuses primarily on what the writer is attempting to communicate. Reading the text as though it were an ordinary magazine or newspaper, the author gains perspective through the reader's reactions to the text. Text reactions include responding to descriptions, arguments, and examples provided within the paper.

Academic Reader- The academic reader analyzes the text for how well the paper conforms to the standards of academic discourse. A knowledge of academic standards is needed in order to provide feedback as an academic reader.

Coach- A coach is someone who actively facilitates the development of writing. This is perhaps the most complex attitude as it adopts various aspects of the three previous attitudes listed.

Citing Sources

  • Common Errors in English - resource for information on common English-language usage errors
  • The Elements of Style - resource for information on "principle requirements of plain English style" "intended for use in English courses" (quotations taken from linked page)
  • Darling's Guide to Grammar - resource for information on writing at sentence, paragraph, and essay levels as well as other grammar materials
  • Grammar Bytes! - resource for information on grammar terms and practice as well as online coursework
  • The Hypertext Book: Modern English Grammar - resource for information on supplemental reading materials for modern English grammar
  • Punctuation Points - resource for information on punctuation and mechanics as well as practice materials
  • Grammar Tips from Harvard - resource for information on grammar, punctuation, and style as well as links to strategies for essay writing
  • The Owl at Purdue - resource for information on writing resources and instructional material for general writing, research and citation, subject-specific writing, and more
  • Academic Grammar - resource for information on writing problems of ESL students
  • English Grammar - resource for information on "a complete English grammar guide filled with the rules of English usage. Each grammatical rule is explained in plain English with several examples, and when needed, counter-examples" (quotation taken from linked page)
  • Online Bibliography Maker - resource for information on citation generation