Tips on Teaching Adult Students to Edit Their Writing

Posted by on October 26th, 2016

For many students writing is hard. The process of editing writing can be even more daunting. The primary challenges surrounding editing are the time required and the rules that must be applied. Editing can be a lengthy process requiring extreme attention to detail. The time and attention required when combing for errors can be very difficult for inexperienced writers especially if editing is a newer skill to them.


Specific rules surrounding spelling, grammar and punctuation also have the ability to overwhelm writers. Frustrations mount as they try to recall the various rules and properly apply them. Editing challenges can be particularly prominent if a student does not speak well and writes similarly to how she speaks.


Students are sometimes less likely to identify errors in their writing in these cases. A number of errors are very common in writing including sentence fragments, comma errors, easily confused words and misplaced apostrophes. Many of these common errors can be found and addressed using a few simple tips.


  • Read Text Aloud – Encourage your students to read their writing aloud and deliberately. Writers often silently read their writing to themselves as they desire to hear it. Writers often read what they think they have written, verses what they have actually written. The read aloud challenge will often highlight glaring errors such as omitted words or punctuation for point clarity. Reading aloud also tests the flow of text for writers and readers.


  • Be concise – As writers read their first drafts of a text, they may notice they have repeated a particular word or have been redundant in meaning. Have students eliminate the excess for more concise writing.


  • Ask “Is this thought complete?” – As your writers are learning to edit themselves, remind them to ask, “Is this thought complete?” as they look at each sentence they have crafted. If the answer is no, students will know they have discovered a fragment.


  • Ask “Who or what am I talking about?” – Writers will often benefit from asking themselves who or what they are talking about in a sentence. Asking this question will prompt writers to determine if they have chosen the appropriate pronoun and demonstrate whether their pronouns are in agreement.


  • Use a glossary – Using a glossary will help students choose the proper word among pairs of commonly confused words such as affect/effect, lead/led, advice/advise, chose/choose and lose/loose.


  • Apostrophe Review – Apostrophes are used to show possession and create contractions. Have students review their use of apostrophes in their writing using the following questions. Have apostrophes been used at all? If so, are the apostrophes in the right place? Has an apostrophe been used for a possessive that does not require an apostrophe? Is an apostrophe needed to clarify between “it’s” and “its” in a sentence?


The writing and editing processes can be a challenge for adult learners. However, the challenges can often be mitigated through the use of basic tips such as reading aloud, asking if a thought is complete, and using a glossary. Because there are a number of common editing mistakes, you have the ability to strengthen your students’ skills in finding and fixing these errors. Consider creating a checklist of common editing errors, examples and proper fixes to assist your students with making their writing stronger.


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