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Resource for EF Members: How To Leave Helpful Essay Critiques


Aug 6, 2016   #1
Hey EF family! This is something I've been thinking about a lot. I'm going to outline some different ways to leave feedback and some ways to make sure your feedback is helpful to the owner of the essay. None of this is anything mandatory or even coming from the EF Admin team; it's simply a compendium of my thoughts and ideas that might be helpful. When you join EF, there's really not a resource that tells you exactly what kind of feedback you can leave. That's what makes it great because there are lots of different opinions and things you can leave feedback on. Feel free to add any ideas you might have or any additions to this (not so little) little thread in the comments below. We're all part of the same team so any comments, ideas, etc... are welcome!

Greeting the writer of the essay:
• Say hello! Welcome them to the forum if they are new here. Some people do this and some don't. Personally, I think it sets the tone for your feedback and just gives you a chance to be positive. A lot of us tend to have more negative critiques, so we just jump right into edits.We say what didn't work or what we think should be changed.

• Saying hello and welcoming them is a nice way to help members feel welcomed before we rush into giving them feedback. Members have said in the past that as editors, we can be a little bit negative or less than polite. I feel like that comes from rushing to post our edits and not being personable about it.

• Contributors like justivy03 are really good at saying hello, welcoming members, and saying goodbye. Definitely check out the way that Ivy formulates her feedback for a good example of this.

• This is a really simple thing you can do that will go a long way with essay authors.

The Compliment Sandwich Method:
• This is a method of leaving feedback in a more formatted way. You can fill in this part with feedback based on any of the methods listed below (if you choose to). This is also a nice way to create more balanced feedback.

• The actual feedback you give can vary, as most responses do. Whatever you are commenting on would go in the middle section of your comment.

• To use this method, you start of by saying something positive about the essay. It could be something you liked, something they did well, or something that just stood out to you in a positive way. Then, you give the feedback or edits. This is the mostly negative stuff, the corrections, things you think should be changed, or grammatical edits. Then, to conclude your message, you say something positive again.

• What I usually do at the end is say something about how I think they have a great start to their essay and hope they keep working on it. I also invite them to post edited drafts (to the same thread) and offer to come back and take another look. It's really simple but it does make a difference.

Different types of feedback:

1. Ensuring the essay meets the prompt
• This tends to be a good feedback choice when editing any kind of entrance essay, since answering the entire prompt can be very important. This kind of feedback won't generally be appropriate for things like IELT/ TOEFL essays.

• You can break down the prompt into parts- either in your head or actually in your response. Read the essay looking for all of the parts of the prompt you defined and let the author know your opinion on how well they answered it.

• There was an essay I reviewed not long ago where I broke the prompt up into 8+ parts and commented on how well (or poorly) they answered each part and what my opinions were on each part they had written.

• You can write about how well they answered the prompt or if the essay fits the prompt and give suggestions to what they didn't answer clearly enough (or at all). Some people have great essays but they don't really fulfill what is being asked.

2. Editing for Content
• This is actually similar to the above, but less prompt-focused. Many members write general personal statements/ statements of purpose or other essay types which can be edited for content.

• This is mostly done on things like entrance essays or letters. It's not really relevant to IELTS/ TOEFL essays.
• Editing for content is pretty much any comment, feedback, critique or idea about their essay that's not punctuation, grammar, or word choice errors.
• Is the writer showing or telling? Showing can be much more powerful and something I tend to encourage a lot.
• Is their writing relevant to the essay? What about tone? Are they using negative words/ tone? Is their essay formal or academic enough?
• Is their introduction strong and relevant? What about their conclusion?
• How's their formatting? Do they have nice paragraphs or huge blocks of text?
• Editing for content tends to be done before you do grammatical type editing. Why? Because getting the right content is more important, and it might be a waste of time to edit in that way if they change the content of the essay. The content is important for a strong foundation of the essay.

• This type of feedback is probably what I give the most, especially because I personally prefer editing things like entrance essays.

3 Editing for grammar, punctuation, word choice, etc..
• This tends to be the most common type of feedback you'll see here. I feel like it's also the easiest and quickest among the three I've listed here.

• This is also the most common and most helpful type of feedback for IELTS/ TOEFL essays.
• Many people tend to use the different font colors and strike tool to help with editing; this works really well ensuring all the edits and changes you're suggesting are clear.

• I think most of us have a pretty solid understanding of proper grammar, although it does tend to vary by country. For example, I cringe every time I see the word "advices" being given as an edit, but in many places "advices" is correct.

• Are they using the wrong word (they're, their, there, etc...)? Do plurals agree?
• Punctuation, again, is something I'm pretty sure we all, as editors here, have a solid understanding of.
• I tend to notice a lot of run on sentences that can easily be solved with a semi colon (and, actually, same with strings of overly simple sentences).

• Word choice tends to be my favorite of these three. Are their sentences and paragraphs clearly understandable? Is their writing succinct or verbose? Word choice can definitely help with being to simple or too wordy. Are they using too many FANBOYS (I never knew what this meant until seeing it here)?

• With word choice, sometimes it helps to re-write a sentence or two for the author so they can get a sense of how to choose better words.

When it comes to feedback, there's no right or wrong way to do it as longs as your comments are helpful (as per the TOS). You can mix and match the three types I've discussed, mix and match part three (punctuation, grammar, and word choice) or do something entirely different. Essay writers can get really comprehensive feedback when people use different methods, which is amazing!

Please feel free to leave comments - just don't critique my post, please! :). I'd love to hear your opinions on this thread. EF Admins, I hope this type of thread is okay with you Take care!

Hi Grace, it really is a nice thread that you have here, I just hope that most of the members read these useful tips. It is really unfortunate that, in fact, some of them are suspended from this remarkable forum because of meaningless and less helpful feedback. This guidance will also be helpful for those who are still unfamiliar about how to give helpful essay suggestions or critiques.

However, in the last part I have seen that you have wondered why did I mention FANBOYS for several times while correcting someone's essay. That is because I have read them from Academic Writing Skill 1 Student's Book written by Peter Chin et al. , published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 page 22-23. Therefore, I've keep suggesting them to avoid using that if it is related to an admission letter, formal essay, scholarship essay, and any other formal/academic writing essay formats.

Additionally, I reckon that contributors can remind someone if he/she has posted a meaningless feedback or inappropriate post before EF admins take a serious action towards them to temporarily or even permanently suspend his/her account. At least, contributors' warning would be his or her guidance for their future posts to create helpful essay suggestions or critiques.

At last but not least, I would like to say thank you very much for creating such an interesting and helpful thread for all members in this forum. :)
Aug 6, 2016   #3
Hey there Mochtar! Thanks for your response! :) I wish we had an official thread like this that was linked at the bottom, in the TOS, or somewhere on the site. Hint hint, cough cough, EF Admin.

I just meant that the use of FANBOYS is something to consider when editing for word choice, as in, is the writer using too many of them. Maybe that was unclear? I didn't mean to say that they were not something that shouldn't be mentioned. I just never heard of this term before I came to EF, but I definitely think it's a useful thing to let people know if their usage is too overt.

Definitely a good idea for contributors to be on the lookout for unhelpful posts that may result in suspension. I think it's also a really good idea for us to bounce our feedback off of each other, like if you comment on something I might agree with you or focus my feedback on something you didn't mention.
Hi Katheryn, thank you for acknowledging my work on welcoming students and writers alike, here on EF, indeed, it is like an icebreaker that gives a warm welcome to anyone who are first timers on this website.

This thread will absolutely help a lot of contributors who leaves feedback on the writing projects that is posted on the website.

Now, there may not be a well defined guideline as to how or what feedback to leave on writing projects, however, you can be rest assured that, a verification committee from the admin side are hard at work, in making sure that each and every feedback we leave are valuable, accurate and useful in order to further the essay and to hone the skills of the writer as well as to develop their mastery of the English language.

Furthermore, should you have any feedback to address to the EF Admin and you wish it to be private, you can contact them directly by using the link below that says, "Contact", this is the quickest link you can, in order for you to address concerns such as above.Nevertheless, it is a very timely thread and yes, I hope a lot of readers and writers read this thread!


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