Some Thoughts on Correcting for Style

Some Thoughts on Correcting for Style

When correcting essays, a teacher will often see something that is technically correct, but which sounds wrong. Here’s an example:

If I have children, I will give building blocks to develop their ability or creative thinking like the Loge.

A thorough correction of this sentence might look like this:

If I have children, I will give them building blocks, like Legos, to develop various abilities and creative thinking.

But does the student need all that? Other than the spelling “Loge” instead of “Legos”, there is nothing strictly wrong about the sentence.

Yes, the student should know that after give, we usually put an object pronoun. Yes, we normally specify which ability or indicate that we’re being non-specific.  “Or” makes it sound like there’s a choice rather than both being developed. And if you’re going to give an example of something, you should probably put it right after the thing.

But look at that previous paragraph. “We usually…we normally…you should probably.”

So, what to correct? As in last week’s post, it depends. Level certainly matters, though. A student who’s working on mastering the present simple can be forgiven if they don’t write like Shakespeare (or even Nicholas Sparks). That is, spare them style suggestions.

Level matters because you don’t want to bog the student down studying the wrong things.

On that same note, the objectives of the class and the student matter. Was the point of the essay to practice the present real (first) conditional? Then A+ to the student for writing a proper sentence and stretching themselves to do a little more than what was needed.

Finally, will there be an opportunity to reinforce the style suggestions? Will you be teaching object pronouns later on in the term? Then, definitely correct it.

What do you think? Comments are most welcome.

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