Peer Editing–Be Brave

Earlier this week, I sent an email to my daughter’s academic advisor explaining I was supportive of her plans to finish the semester at home if her professors would allow it. In the email, I wrote that Bethany is a conscientious student. I copied her and my husband, Mark as a courtesy.

The next morning, Mark very gently pointed out to me that I had written Bethany is a very contentious student.

No, she’s very agreeable. I’m the one who’s contentious. Sigh. Mark would have caught the mistake had he read my email before I sent it.

While it’s not practical for someone else to read every email we send, we can improve the quality of our work if we allow each other to read what we have written before we turn it in. We call this process peer editing.

If you are the writer, consider finding someone to read your piece. Then ask these questions:

1. Does it make sense?

2. Is it interesting?

3. At what point did you want to stop reading?

Pay close attention to the spot where your reader wanted to stop reading. Check your verbs. Are they active enough? Can you find a more compelling way to move the action along in your prose?

If you read someone else’s work, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the writer pull one main point all the way through the piece?

2. Is the piece organized so that you can easily understand it without the writer’s help?

3. Is it interesting?

Use the answers to these questions to give helpful feedback.

From time to time, my son, the engineering student, sends me research papers to read for him. I’m the perfect audience. While I don’t understand much of the technical material, I can figure out whether or not his information follows a logical progression. After I provided feedback on one of his pieces, he added illustrations so that his readers could see what he described.

Your work isn’t published until someone else reads it. Maybe the bravest part of the process is turning your work over to someone else so you can listen to their feedback.



2 Replies to “Peer Editing–Be Brave”

  1. Anne Marie,

    I totally agree with your article and try to practice this as a rule of thumb. I also try to always read back over my work to do a self-proof before I send it. I find, however, that others are not usually as open to receiving helpful critiques of their work (emails, prayer letters, etc.). I am posting your article on our bulletin board with the hope that others will gain a better understanding of why it’s important to let someone else read their work before sending it out. Let me know if you have any suggestions on how to motivate others to do this.

    Mark Terry

  2. Hey, Mark. I think you can avoid some embarrassing mistakes by having someone else read your work before you publish it. However, as you have correctly observed, very few of us appreciate feedback unless it’s positive.

    When someone asks, I try to remember to first tell them one thing they did right so they know their work has merit. Then I correct concrete grammar and spelling errors. If that goes well, I might point out a place where I think they can improve the logical flow of the information they have presented. I try to end on a positive note.

    Maybe the most important part is for us remind each other that we are not our work. We have value and worth apart from how we use the English language. It sounds basic, but feedback is easier to hear when we remember our worth is in Christ, not our work.

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