Revision: Peer Editing--Serving As a Reader

     What does it take to be a helpful, supportive reader?  Once 
you see what such a reader goes through, and serve as a reader
and commentator yourself, perhaps you'll better appreciate any  
reactions you get to your own writing.

     Begin your work as a peer editor by approaching your fellow
writer's work in a friendly way.  Remember, you aren't out to
pass judgement on a peer's effort.  Your purpose is to give
honest, intelligent appreciation that helps the writer become
aware of the essay's strong points, not only its weak ones.  When
you find fault, you can do so by making impartial observations--
statements that can benefit the writer.  A judgmental way to
criticize might be "This paper is confused.  It keeps saying the
same thing over and over again."  But a more useful comment might
be more specific: "Paragraph five makes the same point as
paragraphs two and three" (which observation suggests that two of
the three paragraphs might be eliminated).

     Your job isn't merely to notice misspelled words or misused 
semi-colons (although it could become a part of the process). 
Your job is more extensive and should address larger issues: 
to what the writer is driving at, to the sequence of ideas, 
to the apparent truth or falsehood of the observations, to the 
quantity and quality of the evidence, to the coherence or unity 
of the paper as a whole.  

     The following checklist offers a variety of questions to
guide you as a peer editor.  Not all these points apply to every
piece of writing, but many of them will be helpful in assisting
the writer.


               What is my reaction to this paper? 

               What is the writer trying to tell me? What does he
               or she most want me to learn? 

               What are this paper's greatest strengths?  

               Does it have any major weaknesses?

               Do I understand everything? Is there any
               information missing from this draft that I still
               need to know? 

               Is what this paper tells me worth saying, or does
               it only dwell on the obvious?  Does it tell me
               anything I didn't know before?  

               Is the writer trying to cover too much territory? 
               Too little? 

               Does any point need to be more fully explained or 

               When I come to the end, do I find the paper has
               promised me anything it hasn't delivered? 

               Could this paper use a down-to-the-ground
               revision?  Would it benefit from a different topic
               altogether--one the writer perhaps touches but 
               doesn't deal with? 


               Has the writer began in such a way that I'm

               Am I quickly drawn into the paper's main idea? 
               Or can I find, at some point later in the paper, 
               a better possible beginning?  

               Does the paper have one main idea, or does it
               struggle to handle more than one?  Would the main
               idea stand out better if anything were removed? 

               Might the ideas in the paper be more effectively 
               rearranged in a different order?  Do any ideas 
               belong together that now seem too far apart.  

               Does the writer keep to one point of view--one
               angle of seeing?  (If he starts out writing as a
               college student, does he switch to when he was a
               young boy without telling me?)

               Does the ending seem deliberate, as if the writer
               meant to conclude at this point?  Or does the
               writer seem merely to have run out of gas?  If so,
               what can the writer do to write a stronger

               Do I feel this paper addresses a particular
               audience?   Or does the writer appear to have no
               idea whom she/he is speaking to?  

               At any point in the paper, do I find myself
               disliking or objecting to a statement the writer
               makes, to a word or phrase with which I'm not in
               sympathy? Should this part be kept, whether or not
               I object, or should it be changed?  

               Does the draft contain anything that distracts me,
               that seems unnecessary, that might be struck? 

               Do I get bored at any point and want to tune out? 
               What might the writer do to make me want to keep

               Can I follow the writer's ideas easily? Does the
               paper need transitions (words and phrases that
               connect), and if it does, at what places?  

               Does the language of this paper stay up in the
               clouds of generality, referring always to
               agricultural commodities and legality, never to
               pigs' feet and parking tickets?  If so, where and
               how might the writer come down to earth and get

               Do I understand all the words the writer uses, or
               are there any specialized words (such as
               scientific words or dialect) whose meaning needs
               to be made clearer?  


               Now that I have lived with this paper for a while
               and looked at it closely, how well does it work
               for me? 


          To show the writer just where you had a reaction, write
comments on the margin of the paper.  Then at the end write an
overall comment that includes the paper's strong and weak points. 
Remember, vague blame or vague praise won't help the writer. 
Don't say, "I like this essay because I can relate to it."  It is
true that such a response might be satisfying to the writer;
however, expressing a comment such as "That example in paragraph
nine clarified the whole point of the paper for me" might make
the writer satisfied for a good reason.
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