Principles of Commenting

Specify What You Will Evaluate

Distribute an assignment sheet (or post one online) that specifies what the key expectations of the assignment are (e.g., claim, reasons, evidence, or problem statements).
Less is More.
Studies repeatedly show that when it comes to commenting on papers, less is more.
The more comments you put on a paper, the less likely students are to be able to process any of the comments you've written. 30 comments are much less effective than 10, and 10 are less effective than 3. Because less is more, you should:
Comment from the "Top Down"
Here's a list of paper elements, from most global (paper-wide) to most local (sentence- or word-level):
* Claim
* Problem Statement
* Reasons
* Evidence
* Acknowledgment and Response
* Paragraph-Level Organization:
* Issue/Discussion
* Old to New
* Topic Strings
* Nominalizations
* Grammar
* Spelling
* Typos
Work your way down the list as you comment, identify the two or three most global issues, then stop. Because you are commenting from the top down, you shouldÉ
Worry About Sentence-Level Style Last
We know that when students are grappling with difficult concepts and high order critical thinking (like analysis and synthesis), their writing often suffers at the sentence level. Their prose becomes contorted or simplistic, and they make syntactical, grammatical, and spelling mistakes. This is true even for students who otherwise write beautifully. Overlook these surface errors during drafts. (You may circle grammar/spelling/typos, and note that these are a baseline expectation for any essay, but expend your energy and ink engaging with the student's arguments and ideas.)