Grade Like A Reader, Not An Editor

Time required: Medium to High

Grading: Medium to High

Disciplines: All

Why: Even proficient writers may struggle with grammar when writing about new concepts or ideas, but writers also need to learn to edit their own copy for errors. Grading student writing at the sentence level is a choice you make, not something you have to do. 


  • As you design writing assignments, decide on your grading criteria relative to content/ideas, organization, voice, etc.  Be sure to communicate these expectations to your students before they do the assignment (rubrics work well for this).
  • You don’t have to respond to students’ work at the sentence level unless you want to—decide if you want to comment on style (voice, sentence patterns) and/or errors (mechanics, syntax, punctuation) and make the distinction in your comments.
    • When you decide to not grade at the sentence level, that doesn’t mean that students aren’t accountable for their errors; help them correct errors by:
      • Arranging for peer proofreading and/or directing students to use friends or family as proofreaders
      • Encouraging students to read their work aloud to uncover errors
      • Suggesting (or requiring) the use of grammar/spell checkers
      • Offering general feedback on systematic errors, either individually or in communication with the class as a whole
      • Allowing for multiple lower stakes edited submissions as the assignment is being completed

From Chapter 6 of The Elements of Teaching Writing: A Resource for Instructors in All Disciplines, by Katherine Gottschalk and Keith Hjortshoj