English 207 Instructors

Sometimes instructors find themselves writing the same comments on almost every student paper. This example shows how an instructor gives an entire class collective feedback about the most common problems she found in their papers, eliminating the need for detailed explanation on each student’s paper.


Dear 207 Folks,

I wanted to give you some collective feedback about this first paper, in addition to the more personalized notes I’ve left on each response sheet. Overall, I truly enjoyed reading these papers; most showed evidence of careful thought and hard work. I appreciate that. However, there were some errors common to many papers, and some comments that I found myself writing over and over again, so I thought it might be useful to address them here.


Description vs. Analysis:

Many of you had the right instinct and cited the text in your papers—a fine beginning! However, telling your reader what is there in your poem (just describing it) takes the reader only half-way; continue by teasing out the how and why questions (questions of significance). Also, especially with poetry (but also with prose), it’s often useful to ponder the precise language that the author employs—consider these detailed, technical matters and pose a theory of their significance for your reader.



You underline books, like Songs of Innocence, and quote poems, like “Holy Thursday.” Also, after a quote from a poem, identify it with a line number (not a page number) in parentheses.


Its vs. It’s:

If you want to write the contraction for “it is” then use “it’s.” For example: It’s about time we were leaving. If you want to write about something that belongs to “it” then use “its.” For example, My dog could chase its tail all day long.


I hope you’ll keep these tips in mind next time you sit down to work on a paper—for this (or any other) class.


Thanks for all your effort.


And if you have any questions at all—about comments, grades, the poems themselves, etc., I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you to come in and chat. If my office hours aren’t convenient, I’m happy to make an appointment.