Monday, March 3, 2008

A second pair of eyes, Part 1: Eye-finding

By Travis Willmore

No matter how many times you read over a draft, it’s still easy to miss some issues due to your close proximity to your own writing. That's why having an outside perspective can be an indispensable part of the writing process. We’ll look specifically at how to direct your readers to get the kind of feedback you want in future posts, but the most important thing to tell them is that they can feel comfortable being honest about the high and low points of the writing without you taking it personally.

Anyone can provide you with useful input on your writing. They don’t have to be an expert on grammar, spelling or sentence structure. A good place to start, if the demands on your paper are technically specialized, might be someone taking the same class. Even if the needs of your paper aren’t too specialized, someone in the same class may still be a good bet for that second pair of eyes because they’re readily available (at least three or four people within slapping distance, in the typical thirty-person class) and can sympathize with the general brand of writing challenges you’re facing.

There are plenty of other places to find readers. Ask your friends, roommates, or someone you’ve had in a previous class to take a look at the writing and share what they think about it. Offer to do the same with theirs. Some majors require students to write a lot of papers – identify friends in these fields and ask for their input. Current students have first-hand knowledge about what is required in a college-level paper and understand how important it is to turn in quality work. Take advantage of this expertise. You can also take a look at those in your life beyond campus. Are there college graduates you know that write in their jobs? These people are often able to reflect on their vast experience and provide relevant feedback that can help bring your paper to the next level. Remember, feedback can be harvested from most anywhere.

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