About corrections

On one hand, there are learners who like only major blunders pointed out, while others prefer to have even the tiniest mistake corrected. On the other hand, there are correctors who only correct major grammar and spelling mistakes, while others are nit-picky and sometimes even completely rewrite texts which actually can overwhelm learners.

What kind of corrections do you give and what kind of corrections do you like to receive?

In my case the way I correct is similar to the kind of correction I’d like to receive.
Beginner: I correct all grammar and spelling mistakes and sometimes explain basic grammar and spelling rules (e.g. position of the verb in a main clause, capitalization of nouns) in the comments.
Intermediate: I correct all grammar and spelling mistaks and sometimes explain more advanced grammar rules and give suggestions on how to phrase some sentences/words more naturally.
Advanced: I correct grammar and spelling and get nit-picky about smaller mistakes, explain, if needed, really advanced grammar and give suggestions on how to phrase sentences more naturally. I also give suggestions on style, if necessary, especially when the learner is preparing for an exam.

When I post entries, I sometimes explain how I want a text to be corrected, for instance: “Please only check for typos”, “Please only check grammar but no style”, “I’m learning European Portugese. Please correct accordingly.” And when I correct a text, then I also appreciate, if the learner left similar directions, for instance “I follow Swiss spelling”, “Please correct this text like an informal conversation”

How do you choose the texts that you correct? By topic? By native language of the author (so that they can possibly return the favour)? By length? By the quality of the writing?

I don’t have any criteria for choosing texts to correct. I also don’t shy away from very long texts or texts that are riddled with mistakes. So, when I’m in the mood to correct, I just go through the list entry by entry. When I find a text interesting and well-written, I might follow the author and correct more texts by them. Also, if someone corrected one of my texts and posted something in German, I’d return the favour and correct their text.

What about you?

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Very interesting question!

Giving corrections: I don’t necessarily differentiate between beginners and advanced learners when I correct journals and explain the changes that I make to the text, and I honestly could do a better job of that. One thing that does come to mind is that I’m more willing to give advanced learners the benefit of the doubt. For example, I’m more inclined to believe that certain deviations from (heavily simplified) writing or grammar principles are intentional and that they aren’t mistakes.

I came, I saw, I conquered.

If I saw a sentence like this from a beginner, I would point out that normally, an “and” is needed before the last clause. From an advanced learner with good writing, I would probably just mark it as correct.

I also pay more attention to style and coherence once the learner is past the beginner stage. I correct usage errors or poor grasp of idiom regardless of level, but I probably go into more depth into my explanations when the learner is somewhat advanced.

Picking journals to correct: I’m not too picky with what journals I correct, but there are definitely things that will influence whether or not I will correct a journal.

I prefer working with users who are writing level-appropriate texts. I find that if they are at a low level but try to write very complex journals, their journals generally need to be heavily corrected, and it’s very time-consuming. I also prefer correcting journals from users who clearly have some grasp of basic grammar rules and who learn from their past mistakes. It definitely takes practice to get everything right, but it can get a little frustrating to see someone constantly make the same basic errors.

I also tend to avoid longer, more complex journals, unless I have the time for it.

Receiving corrections: For languages that I speak well, I would like correctors to check for appropriate style, in addition to usage and grammar. For languages where I’m still a beginner, however, I would prefer it if correctors focused on the most obvious mistakes, usually to do with usage and basic grammar.

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When it comes to correcting, I am extremely nit-picky. I try to correct every single thing I deem wrong, inappropriate or merely improveable (this is not applied as diligently to punctuation, because different languages have different punctuation rules and most of the times it comes down to stylistic choices, so it gets complicated). I often correct mistakes that even I would make in informal contexts where I just don’t care about accuracy. For instance, today I corrected a post where an acronym was used, but the girl capitalised only the first letter. We all agree we should write “ONU”, “WWF” and “NASA”, but in some contexts I’d allow myself to write “Nasa” or “nasa”. The idea is that I, as a corrector, have the task of correcting people according to the rules of the language. Native speakers write and talk however they want, but I want foreigners to learn the correct way of speaking and writing. I think this will help them in their learning process.

I also try to explain my corrections thoroughly, because that’s how I would like people to correct me. I obviously don’t waste my time explaining spelling mistakes or simple grammar rules (stuff like past tense instead of present tense or subject before verb), but I always offer an explanation for my corrections, especially if there are multiple mistakes in a single sentence. I try to go in as much detail as possible.

As for choosing what to correct, I basically correct everything that’s not been corrected already. If someone else corrected a text before me (happens rarely anyway, since I’m the most active user in my native language), I just see if their corrections are actually helpful and accurate. If not, I add my contribution.
I refused to correct a text only once, because it was extremely bad. I’m always willing to help, but if I can’t even get to understand something written in my native language, then I can’t do much.

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I’ll try to bring a general, yet comprehensive answer:

Giving corrections: This matter all comes back to how we define the notion of mistake. Suppose you write a grammatically right sentence that no native speaker has ever phrased like this, or a stylistically & grammatically correct sentence that yet fails to mean what you intended: can your sentences be called wrong or not? For these reasons, I definitely tend to be picky in my corrections, in terms of morphology, style, syntax, contexts of use and semantics, since I have the firm conviction an harmonious mixture of all actually defines how advanced you are in a given language.

Of course, I tend to take it easier on absolute beginners, because there are naturally parts of an elaborate correction they wouldn’t understand at all. That being said, I don’t believe in taking it “too easy” on them so as to avoid demotivating them. I feel like it actually does more harm than good, because when you start learning another language, you straight on need to avoid some obvious mistakes as soon as possible, and if no one points out your mistakes at this stage, then it’s very likely you will drag some deficiencies and errors like a chainball for the years to come. Essentially, I believe you can be harsh in your corrections in a benevolent and constructive way, so to me, it isn’t really an issue.

Receiving corrections: i’m ready to receive all kinds of corrections (even the nitpickiest ones), as long as I’m explained what kind of mistakes I’ve made. While this is of course totally utopian to think it’s possible to exhaustively explain every single mistake of a text (for a lot of stylistical oddities, it’s even impossible), I tend to explain as much as possible the "why"s of my corrections, at least the most important points. TBH, the relevance of correcting someone and not to explain them (at any given time) what you did and why is close to zero, IMHO. If you don’t understand what’s wrong in your text, how are you supposed to spot your mistakes and avoid repeating them? In other words: what’s the learning relevance of it?

Picking journals: I try to help as much as I can, however, there clearly are three kinds of posters who don’t rank high in my priority list:

  1. Users who never thank. Yes, this might seem trivial, a little ego thing here, but when people take their time and energy to give corrections, they often expect to receive a little thank. This shows gratitude and is in general much appreciated. In other words: every correction done shouldn’t be taken for granted.

  2. Users who never help back. LC is a collaborative site, which means one has to give in order to receive. Now of course, I’m very much aware of the fact some natives of rare languages sometimes don’t even find anyone to correct, because no one’s learning their languages, and I’m also not in favor of denying someone the right to be corrected if their received/given ratio is 49/50… But I mean, when some folks start having hundreds or thousands of corrections and barely one ever give, this starts being an issue IMO.

  3. Users who want their homework done, a job done etc. LC is meant for language learners. Google Translating your high school task for natives to review it so you can get a good grade is kinda missing the point, because you have no intention of learning anything. Same thing if you just want a document corrected: it’s definitely better to hire a professional translator… At first, this didn’t really bother me, but now, every time I have the feeling a text has other purposes as language learning, I tend to skip it, because I realize my efforts would be used in a much more constructive way helping an actual learner.

I also happened to skip one or two texts because they were definitely too long, but those were rare occurrences.

Learners’ native languages don’t matter to me. I correct learners in their native language when I happen to speak it; when I’m sure they understand French good enough, I correct in French, and in all other cases, I correct in English. So far, I’ve never met any learner who had any problems understanding their given corrections, in English or in any other language, so I hope this will remain that way!

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