“The younger I was, the less I wanted to revise. Kids typically have the same taste for revisions as they do veggies. ~ Paul Fleishman, Newbury winner
Correct wording, sentence structure, verb tense, spelling, comma usage, and on and on… Grammar and punctuation are enough to make one’s head spin.
Writing is hard. Even harder for kids, a blank piece of paper staring up at them, a grade at stake. Yet, once finished, many just hand the thing in, a rough copy at best, and move on, fingers crossed.
A mistake. A big one.
Proofreading—revising and editing—must come next, taking another look, even a third and fourth one, to polish it up to make it teacher ready.
Maybe you’re tempted to take over and do it all yourself, but don’t!
Leave the fixing to your child, showing them the way with these eight proofreading steps:
- Read the whole thing slowly OUT LOUD. Seeing and hearing the piece helps find poorly crafted sentences, fragments and run-ons, too, confusing or repetitious wording, etc. Says writer Jay Atkinson, “Read it aloud because your ear will pick up things that your eye will never detect.” It’s the only way to make sure the writing makes sense, is well-organized, correctly spelled and punctuated.
- Ask: Does my lead sentence draw the reader in, tempting her/him to keep going, such as E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web: “Where’s Papa going with that axe?”
If not, like this one, “I was born in 1972,” suggest following Barry Lane’s advice to go back through the piece and underline its best line. That, then, becomes the lead sentence in draft #2, changing up the entire piece for the better.
- Replace such overused words as nice, good, and great, unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, too. For instance, instead of a very, very pretty girl, go with stunning or gorgeous. Better yet, go with a strong noun and call her a stunner or knockout. Word choices matter, including those that start every sentence.
- Replace overused linking verbs like am is are, being, become and helping verbs, such as am, is, are, was and were, and been with strong verbs. For example, instead of Susie drank her soda really quickly, have her gulp, guzzle, inhale, or chug that cola!
- Find oft-repeated sentence starters, such as The, It, I, and countless weak linking and helping verbs by:
- Folding a sheet of notebook paper in half lengthwise.
- Writing FIRST WORDS on the left side and VERBS on the other, including all linking verbs (He is) and helping verbs (He was smiling).
- Going sentence by sentence, list all those sentence starters and verbs.
- Replacing the weak wording with strong nouns and verbs.
- Check organization. The lead paragraph should set the stage, putting the topic front and center and luring the reader in. The middle paragraphs expand on that topic, each making a separate point, complete with details, giving the whole a logical beginning, middle, and end.
- Make sure the ending restates in some way and strengthens the talking points presented, wrapping things up and giving the piece a satisfying closure. As Eudora Welty once said, “If the ending fails, the whole piece fails.”
- Doublecheck spelling by reading the whole piece backwards, from last word to first. It really works!
Once done and you decide to take one last look yourself, lightly put a checkmark in the margin of any line where there’s still an error, be it wording, spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Two checkmarks = two mistakes, and so on, ready for your child to fix.
Now, better writing, better grades.
~ With my thanks and well wishes, Carol
(Have questions/concerns? Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Will gladly help if I can.)