Monday, November 23, 2015

Should Teachers Copy Edit When Grading Papers?

Nancy Sommers, in Responding to Student Writers, says yes:

“Conversations about the paper load inevitably find their way to thorny questions about grammar and punctuation errors. To ignore such errors, especially ones that impede communication, sends the wrong signal to students. Yet to mark and correct each error sends an equally wrong and discouraging signal. But where is the middle ground to balance instruction with response?

“We need to remind ourselves that errors are a natural and normal part of learning to write. As writing teachers, we have a wide repertoire of strategies to employ when teaching grammar and punctuation, including lessons and exercises, in class or online. Correcting students’ errors is one such strategy, but it is not always the most effective. When teachers become student’ copy editors, they take away the responsibility and opportunity for students to recognize and resolve their own mistakes. Research studies have show that students can identity and correct their own errors, if given the opportunity. (See Richard Haswell, “Minimal Marking,” College English 45.6 (1983): 600-04)

“We can and should expect students to proofread, to use their handbooks, to go to the writing center, and to seek help from their teachers to answer specific grammar or punctuation questions. And we must feel we are able to hold students accountable, even if we haven’t pointed out every error in their drafts. Holding students accountable not only promotes learning but also teaches them to use resources and be active participants in their own learning.

“It is often difficult, though, to resist correcting students’ grammatical and punctuation errors. After all, as writing teachers we are trained to recognize and remedy such errors. And it is often difficult to resist students’ expectations that we mark all their errors. Yet I’ve found that using a similar responding strategy for grammar and punctuation errors as for rhetorical problems saves time and increases students’ responsibility and authority. That is, I focus on patterns—and overuse of passives or misuse of apostrophes, for example—rather than correcting each and every mistake. Similarly, spending classroom time at the beginning of the semester to explain my typical approach—what language and format I’ll use to respond to grammatical and punctuation errors, including abbreviations and shorthand—helps students learn from such comments.

“Asking students to become their own copy editors encourages them to develop a reflective and analytical habit of mind. And it frees teachers from being comma cops. Instead of correcting each error, I circle, highlight, or underline a pattern of errors or put a check mark in the margin to indicate the presence of an error. It is the students’ responsibility to find the remaining errors of the same type. And instead of rewriting their sentences, I make suggestions: ‘How about using active verbs instead of ‘be’ verbs?’ The specific choice of active verbs is theirs, not mine, and they learn more from the process than if I had chosen one for them.

“To strengthen their writing skills, I ask students to keep editing logs in which they copy and edit their sentences, write the grammar or punctuation rules, and explain how to correct the errors. Editing logs are a variation on the theme of ‘trends and patterns.’ When students identify their pattern of errors, apply principles from the handbook, and chart their own progress, they gain control over their writing. The goal is to keep the focus on learning and on building skills, one lesson at a time.

A colleague says no:

“I have a different take on this. My students have told me repeatedly that they want their papers copy-edited because they can’t find their own errors. (I’ve flat-out asked them: ‘Would you rather see a sea of red marks, or just an overview of what you did wrong?’) Many of them have told me that they struggled in earlier English classes because they only had the vaguest idea of what mistakes they were making.

“When I hand back a paper with all the double spaces after periods circled, the misspellings noted, and the continuity issues pointed out, they get a concrete visual of what they’re doing wrong. It’s eye-opening for them, and they seem to appreciate the feedback.

“Now, if only I could get them to stop making those mistakes...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

What tends to catch your eye and cause you to pause as you're scrolling through a social media feed?

I love this answer from Buffer’s Kevan Lee (via email):

“I brake for visuals—images, videos, animated GIFs, Vines, you name it, I’ll look at it.

“Visuals spur nearly double the engagement than text does. If you usually get five likes per post, get ready for 10. If you normally draw 10 clicks, here come 20!

“And the best part: adding a visual is quick and easy.

Friday, October 30, 2015

This Is Exactly What a Social Media Editor Does All Day

“My life became a blur. Tweeting furiously. Hopping over to Facebook to post a story there. Clicking through our Twitter mentions for possible retweets. Fielding requests from Slate editors to promote their newest stories ...

“I had been instructed to keep an eye on Chartbeat to see if any stories suddenly spiked in traffic. That was a hint that the story had legs—people were into it, and so it merited an additional boost on Twitter and Facebook. I saw a piece from our excellent politics correspondent Jamelle Bouie doing well, so I threw it some Twitter love. I noticed a moving personal tale from the writer Rebecca Schuman drawing clicks, so I goosed it on Facebook. I sorted through Slate’s mentions and found some people saying nonhorrible things, so I retweeted them. I checked back to see which stories we hadn’t promoted in a few hours, and shoved them back into the spotlight. I began to get the hang of it ...

“In the afternoon, with the automated program now doing the grunt work, I got more creative. I played with the language on tweets to see if they’d pop. I chucked a few oddball stories up on Facebook, to see if they’d surprise us with unforeseen traffic pizzazz. During the 3 p.m to 4 p.m. hour—traditionally a dead period, I learned—I’d been instructed to post one of my old articles that has reliably gotten a lot of Facebook traction ...

“At the end of the day, I had my first and only brush with ‘viral lift.’ Moneybox writer Alison Griswold cleverly wrote a post about a new, controversial phenomenon known as ‘hot desking’ ... The story exploded on Facebook and Twitter. I kept tweeting it in slightly different ways, over and over. It dominated Chartbeat—I could watch the numbers soar in real time. It was thrilling.

Seth Stevenson

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Here’s Proof That Wegmans and Walmart Are the Best Grocers on Twitter

I love Mallomars, those chocolate-coated marshmallow cookies. The problem is, they’re hard to find. So, I asked five local grocers, via Twitter, if they currently carry these confections. Here are their replies, from worst to below.

1. Target


2. Harris Teeter

Thanks for nothing. Then thanks for giving me the monkey.

3. Safeway

Exactly what I needed to know.

4. Walmart

Bummer, but at least an alternative was provided.

5. Wegmans

Perhaps the best response ever.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

2 Tips to Help Your Next Job Description Cut Through the Clutter

1. Instead of the usual boilerplate, write a listicle—something like, “4 Reasons You Want Work at the Jonathan Rick Group.” (Here’s an example from the Analyst Institute.)

2. Add a brief description of the key people the candidate will be working with. Here’s an example from Help Scout:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Why You Should Always Follow-Up

When to follow-up with someone is a decidedly thorny issue. Do you wait one day, one week, one month?

There’s no right answer—as always, context is king, and patience is a virtue—but here’s a good story that illustrates the importance of doing so:

“It was so Washington, the way they met. She was on the dais at a panel discussion on media and politics, holding forth knowledgeably; he was in the audience, smitten. At the steakhouse dinner that “followed, Jake Brewer got the courage to walk up to Mary Katharine Ham and give her the hopeful, ambiguous let’s get a drink sometime line.

“Then he emailed her an invitation to a tech policy luncheon. She never replied.

“Soon after, he was sitting at El Tamarindo in Adams Morgan with a friend, and she was beelining for their table. She greeted the mutual friend at his table—and only then turned to him with a friendly stare of nonrecognition.

“’Hi,’ she told Jake. ‘I’m Mary Katharine Ham.’

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. 17 Tricks to Master Email Etiquette
  2. 17 Ways to Send Smarter Emails
  3. To Master Email, Learn These 17 Tricks
  4. 17 Habits of the Best Emailers
  5. 17 Habits of the Smartest Emailers
  6. 17 Ways to Send Better Emails
  7. 17 Ways to Make Emily Post Praise Your Emails
  8. 17 Ways to Make Emily Post Praise Your Email Etiquette
  9. 17 Points of Email Etiquette You Thought You Know
  10. 17 Points of Email Etiquette You Were Never Taught
  11. For the Sake of My Sanity, Please Learn These 17 Rules of Email Etiquette

Addendum: And the winner is...

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Typical Day on Business Insider

Tom Scocca:

The home page of Business Insider today is full of headlines that use the “curiosity gap” technique:

  • CARL ICAHN WARNS: It would be disastrous
  • The man who delivered one of the great economic speeches in history just made a bold move to bolster India’s economy
  • This health-conscious fast food chain is challenging McDonald’s to be healthier
  • Your Mac is going to change this week
  • NASA’s “major” Mars water news is a distraction from something much more exciting

What? Who? Which? What?

Carly Fiorina Is a Master Manipulator of the Media

“Clinton and Fiorina appeared back to back on Meet the Press recently. Clinton was challenged on the email issue and tried affably to defend her conduct. Fiorina was challenged on the existence of a Planned Parenthood video she claims to have seen.

“In contrast to Clinton, Fiorina simply refused to adopt a defensive posture. She ignored the challenges and just hit Planned Parenthood harder. The factual issue sort of got lost in her torrent. She was stylistically indomitable even if she didn’t address the substance of the critique.

David Brooks

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Can’t Believe the Hasn’t Fixed This Elementary Error

Here’s what happens when I view the table of contents for the current issue of the New Yorker. Look closely—do you see the problem?

Sadly, I pointed this out, nine months ago, to the editor of, but he never responded:

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Which Headline Would You Click On?

  1. How to Nail a Media Interview Without Really Trying
  2. How to Master a Media Interview Without Really Trying
  3. How to Master a Media Interview
  4. The 11 Fastest Ways to Rock a Media Interview
  5. 11 Things You Must Know Before Your Next Interview
  6. 11 Things You Need to Know Before Going on TV
  7. Media Training in 11 Easy Steps
  8. The 11 Fastest, Easiest Ways to Dominate a Media Interview
  9. Don’t Be Yourself. Be a Better Version of Yourself
  10. The Top 10 Principles of Media Training
  11. Talking With a Reporter Isn’t Rocket Science. It’s Harder
  12. The 11 Most Impactful Maxims of Media Training
  13. The Fastest Way to Bomb an Interview
  14. How to Bomb a Media Interview
  15. The 11 Most Important Things You Need to Know About Media Training
  16. The 11 Most Important Things You Need to Know Before Your Next Interview
  17. Everything You Know to Know Before Talking to the Media
  18. How Not to Bomb a Media Interview
  19. Everything I Know About Media Training, I Learned in This 1 Minute From Gone Girl

Addendum: And the winner is...

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Rewriting Bad Twitter Bios

Editor-in-chief, The Marshall Project, a non-profit newsroom covering crime and punishment in America @marshallproj

Editor-in-chief of @MarshallProj, a non-profit newsroom covering crime and punishment in America

Co-Founder CHIEF @mybigchief / Advancing Brands

Co-founder of @MyBigChief. We advance brands

Jill Abramson teaches creative writing @Harvard and is writing a book about the news

I teach creative writing @Harvard and am writing a book about the news

NY Times columnist, co-author of Half the Sky & A Path Appears, Newsletter:

@NYTimes columnist ● Co-author of Half the Sky and A Path Appears ● Facebook: ● Newsletter:

Writer-at-Large, NEW YORK / Executive Producer, VEEP (HBO)

Writer-at-Large, @NYMag. Executive Producer, @VeepHBO

Conservative Review Contributing Editor and CNN Contributor. Former Cruz comms director and DeMint speechwriter. Mommy. Wifey. Instagram

@CR Contributing Editor and @CNN Contributor. Former @TedCruz comms director and @JimDeMint speechwriter. Mommy. Wifey.

Daniel Roth is LinkedIn's executive editor. Former editor of, writer: Wired/Fortune/Portfolio. Brooklynianer. Bio:

@LinkedIn’s executive editor. Former editor of @FortuneMagazine. Writer: Wired/Fortune/Portfolio. Brooklynianer. Bio:

Friday, September 18, 2015

Let the Words Carry the Authority

You know, I feel terrible making you do this when I’m not even in the debate.

You’re not in the Olympics either, doesn’t mean you don’t do some sit-ups now and then.

Well, you know you’ve coached about 50 women congressional candidates to debate wins—so there must be some secret.

There is. Always keep an extra pair of pantyhose in your purse.

After bombing the way I did in Iowa, I’m not gonna rule that out.

Congressman, I looked at the tapes. You’re great. You’re quotable cute enough to be a presidential pinup.

Wait until you see my runway work.

You don’t have the presidential voice.

The presidential voice?

You don’t have it. And it’s a time of global peril and you’re sharing the stage with two vice presidents.

Or not.

Congressman, what do you think of the ultranationalist gains in the Russian parliamentary elections?

It ain’t the Litchfield City Council, but Russia makes its own choices. And in a democracy—

Whoa, whoa, whoa—you just wrote the lamer half of Jay Leno’s monologue. You’re not a House backbencher trying to get a quote on CNN. Sobriety, understatement, let the words carry the authority.

A presidential voice...

Think filling out a suit, instead of wearing bright orange


I was gonna say neckties, but what the hell.

There are whole generations of Russians who were trained by the KGB. Now, when the wall fell, they didn’t all go open pizzerias. Now that’s not to say that

No, no, no. Bad, bad, bad. If I could pull a lever and drop you through the floor, I’d do it right now.

What, my analysis isn’t right?

Your analysis is fine. I don’t know how to explain this any better. It’s not a pop quiz and it’s not a late-night talk show. The leader of the free world has to speak in broad concepts, in value statements. “I love America. I will lead the world towards liberty.”

Oh, I don’t sound pompous enough?

You sound like you’re commenting on events, not shaping them.

I don’t shape them, and it’s not the way I think.

Congressman, the prospect of first-strike capability’s gotta change the way you think.


I’m trying to explain the presidential voice. The difference between leading the marketplace and catering to it. The difference between, I don’t know, John Lennon and John Davidson. Sergeant Pepper and the fifth Herman’s Hermits album.

—The West Wing

Saturday, September 5, 2015

When a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

“The most explicit image ... is one of the rare news photographs with the potential to grab the public’s attention in ways that reporting never could, and perhaps inspire readers to think about what is happening in Syria and why. You might not know much about Syria, and viewing this photograph ... isn’t going to make you understand what’s happening there. But it might force you to confront the fact that you haven’t been paying attention—make you justify your indifference, and in doing so raise your awareness by at least a little bit ... The image is resonant and journalistically relevant because it illustrates the human toll of an ongoing humanitarian crisis that persists, in part, because the world pays it very little attention.” —Justin Peters

“It’s horrific, graphic, and gruesome—and it’s important that everyone looks at it. Reading about gun violence isn’t enough. A shooting is a visual tragedy. There’s a muzzle flash, bullets, a wound, blood, and bodies. When we see an upsetting image, our brain draws on tens of thousands of years of evolutionary training for a proper response.” —Sam Biddle

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Looking Good on Paper Is Not the Same Thing As Being Good

When hiring a professor, nearly every college uses traditional criteria. Perhaps the most important is whether the applicant has a graduate degree.

On one hand, credentials are an important part of a school’s brand. Given that students are coughing up an arm and a leg for today’s tuition, it’s helpful when a school can boast that “every single one of our faculty holds an advanced degree.” Indeed, this percentage contributes to a school’s ranking.

This makes sense, especially from a marketing perspective. And yet, this description pertains primarily to tenure-track professors, whose full-time job is in academe.

By contrast, consider adjunct professors—people who teach as a side gig. These folk typically have another job that pays the bills; they don’t teach for the money, but because they love doing it.

In other words, adjuncts are the JV team.

Here, then, is the question: should the JV team be held to the same standard as varsity? (For the sake of essentialization, let’s put aside the pay disparity.) For most colleges, the answer is clear: every professor, regardless of rank, must have a Masters degree or more. But this blanket rule seems myopic. Isn’t it preferable to judge each person on his own merits, rather than deploying a one-diploma-fits-all catchall? Isn’t a scalpel a better judge of ability than a sledgehammer?

Fair enough. But shouldn’t educators be well-educated? Shouldn’t they master the theories of pedagogy before they practice on live minds? Just as we require everyone from a manicurist to a lawyer to get licensed, so we should demand certain credentials of a professor.

That sounds reasonable, right? It does… until you talk with longtime instructors. They’ll tell you that teaching is more of an art than a science. Just because you earned a PhD from Princeton in 17th-century French literature doesn’t mean you know how to make Molière come alive for two hours at the front of a classroom of easily distracted students.

So where does this leave us? Ultimately, what you think boils down to which you care more about: rules, or outcomes? Put another way: is your primary goal to perpetuate the perception of excellence, or to make that perception an everyday reality?

Let’s not rule out an entire class of people based solely on their resume. As any user of Ashley Madison now well-knows, who you are on paper (or pixels) is often decidedly different from who you are in person.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Problem With PowerPoint Is Worse Than You Thought

“Think about what happens when you open PowerPoint. A blank format slide appears that contains space for words—a title and subtitle. This presents a problem. There are very few words in a Steve Jobs presentation. Now think about the first thing you see in the drop-down menu under Format: Bullets & Numbering. This leads to the second problem. There are no bullet points in a Steve Jobs presentation. The software itself forces you to create a template that represents the exact opposite of what you need to speak like Steve!”

—Carmine Gallo, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Most Inspiring Communicators All Share This One Quality

It’s the “ability to create something meaningful out of esoteric or everyday products,” as Carmine Gallo writes in The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. He offers up the following examples:

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz does not sell coffee. He sells a “third place” between work and home.

Financial guru Suze Orman does not sell trusts and mutual funds. She sells the dream of financial freedom.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs did not sell computers. He sold tools to unleash human potential.

Cisco CEO John Chambers does not sell routers and switches that make up the backbone of the Internet. He sells human connections that change the way we live, work, play, and learn.