Marking essays with a red pen -- on the computer?!
July 5, 2010 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Is there any quick, easy way to mark essays in a word processor so that they end resulted is again to a handwritten paper, torn apart by a red pen???

I reach ESL at a Hagwon (i KNOW...I'll take a better job if you're offering!) and I have a director who's an idiot, but a very demanding idiot. He wants all work done by students to be done by hand, for instance, but, as I teach a few iBT writing class, I argued that he was being utterly retarded.

He has finally related and has allowed the advanced kids I teach to not only type their essays, but email them to me as well. He still wants me to give a 'red-pen-fu' style when correcting, but, to be honest, my handwriting is terrible, it takes forever, and it hurts . The kids make A LOT of mistakes, though, so correction their essays in word is turning out to be just as slow. I've been told that if I want to edit on the computer, it needs to emulate the hand and pen method. manually changing for colors or adding a strike or whatever whenever there is a mistake takes was to long. There has to be a better way! Are there essay marking programs out there? Is it possible to do this word (and no, i can't embed comments)?

Thanks! Also, if you know of any job opportunities in Seoul besides Hagwon work, I'll sell you my soul for the lead.
posted by MostHolyPorcine to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Microsoft Word has something called "Track Changes," if that's the program you are using. On the keyboard, type [crtl]+[shift]+[e] to turn it on & off. There's a number of display options you can set, but one of the basic setting is to cross things out (in red) & rewrite the changes (in red) as you type. It's a lot easier than doing these format changes manually.
posted by Ys at 8:11 AM on July 5, 2010

Most word processing packages have a reviewing functionality like Word that will allow you to do something like this.
posted by arcticseal at 8:25 AM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: The keyword you're looking for here is "annotating". There's a couple of ideas in this PDF document. Google for "annotating MS Word" also turns up some plug-ins that might be helpful.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:32 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

seconding Track Changes. also, you should ruthlessly run spelling and grammar checks, to save you a TON of time. lastly, my thesis adviser (who gave me copious notes) used dictation software to verbally insert notes. it's not 100% perfect and takes a while to get used to, but it's definitely fast and easy.
posted by acidic at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2010

When copyeditors are asked to edit manuscripts using "Track Changes" or other annotation features, they get about twice the per-word rate as they do using a red pencil. That's partly because it's fast and foolproof to accept and incorporate edits, but it's also because electronic correction is significantly slower than correcting in longhand. Trust me, your plan will make your essay marking significantly slower.

I have a Chinese friend who quit pursuing a history degree in part because, when his work led him into handwritten English source documents, he found he couldn't read them. He'd have been a lot less frustrated if he'd been exposed to hand-marked essay manuscripts earlier in his career.
posted by gum at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2010

Oh, and if you do mark essays electronically, make sure you write-protect them before returning them to students, or they'll just accept all your corrections without thinking about and learning from them -- a truly depressing ritual for all concerned.

There are some strong pedagogical reasons to teach writing by hand, even if your director is an idiot!
posted by gum at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2010

When copyeditors are asked to edit manuscripts using "Track Changes" or other annotation features, they get about twice the per-word rate as they do using a red pencil

That's absolutely not the case in my experience. I copy-edit on a daily basis at work, and we would never get anything done if I still had to print everything out and then mark it up with red pen. That approach is just so slow and subject to inaccuracy, especially depending on who's ultimately entering the suggested changes (because every change still has to be entered electronically at some point these days; why not do it right away and skip the middleman?). I use red pen on layout proofs, but not in the initial copy-edit stage.

It's a lot faster, I've found, to be able to make edits electronically via Track Changes, especially for complex edits that involve moving clauses from one place to another, long comments explaining several alternate versions of a clause or why a change was made, and looking up multiple potentially misspelled proper nouns. You just have to get used to using the Track Changes system, as well as set it up in Word's preferences so a lot of those things the OP mentions (such as automatically striking through text that's to be deleted and writing in in red text that's to be added) are done automatically by the program. One thing that helps, I've found, is selecting text that needs to be changed and typing right over the top of it. That way the deletions and additions are added to the record of changes at the same time, and it's less cumbersome.

I don't know of any way to add editing marks, however—such as carets for insertion, paragraph symbols for new paragraphs, circled X's for periods, etc.—automatically via Track Changes, which it sounds like they want you to do.
posted by limeonaire at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

He'd have been a lot less frustrated if he'd been exposed to hand-marked essay manuscripts earlier in his career.

This is a good point, though; for the students you're teaching, it may be important to get as close as possible to re-creating that experience for them.
posted by limeonaire at 10:36 AM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: I think I should clarify a bit more...

These are sixth graders writing 200-300 word essays. Why they are studying to take the iBT in 6th grade, I don't know. Korea, I guess. Anyway, I don't need to give them copious amounts of notes...when I hand back the paper, I'll discuss the organization(lack thereof), logical inconsistencies, etc. in an attached short note. The essays are short enough that I can type out a quick evaluation when I'm done marking. The problem is just finding a quick and easy way to emulate the pen-and-paper method to fix the strange syntactical choices and stop them from conjugating nouns.

I know I should have better hand writing, blah blah. But, I don't. After marking one or two essays, my hands turn into claws.

Track changes seems like the way to go...would anyone know how to turn that on in the korean version of word 7? Or if there is something similar in openoffice? (I do all my marking at work, all the programs are in korean, they won't change them to english, etc etc.)
posted by MostHolyPorcine at 3:53 PM on July 5, 2010

no clue about the Korean part, but I thought I'd add that to adjust the display details for track changes you'll want to look under tools & options on the main menu bar. Have a hunch that that is where you will find the on/off for tracking as well, in whatever language.
posted by Ys at 4:06 PM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: I don't know if this will be of help to you, but I had a friend screencap the menus of her English version of Word 2007 for me when I was having trouble navigating on my Japanese school computer: here you go. Good luck!
posted by you zombitch at 5:58 PM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: Track changes did the trick wonderfully. Thanks for the PDF explaining how to do it, and to you zombitch....that picture is a friggin godsend. That is going to make my life so much easier. I've never been able to work with an English version of Word 2007, and I had no idea how to do 90% of the tricks that picture shows.
posted by MostHolyPorcine at 1:47 AM on July 6, 2010

I copy-edit on a daily basis at work, and we would never get anything done if I still had to print everything out and then mark it up with red pen.

Sure -- electronic copyediting is often more efficient if the goal is a completed, corrected text, and everyone agrees what "correct" is. There are no red pencils in professional newsrooms anymore.

But if the goal is to get a bunch of sixth-graders to learn to write, efficiencies in making errors disappear can be counterproductive. You don't want to teach students to "click on Accept Changes," you want them to grasp what they did wrong, figure out how to do it better, and in so doing build durable language skills. Getting the practice essay to a perfect state of polish is not the goal; learning to do better the next time is the goal.

(Similarly, fiction manuscripts are still copyedited by hand, since the goal is to have a deeper conversation with the author than "No, no, how about this? No. Rephrase. Yes!" Same with most academic manuscripts being prepared for publication, since the copyeditor is rarely in a position to make expert decisions about copy content.)

Page for page, electronic markup is slower than red-pencil markup for a professional copyeditor . . . or an overworked English teacher. I celebrate MostHolyPorcine's enthusiasm for investigating Track Changes, though. Some ESL teachers have used this and similar technology in curriculum development by asking pairs/groups of students to gather around a monitor to discuss and accept or reject proposed changes -- more of a conversation exercise than a writing exercise, but they're all connected!
posted by gum at 6:06 PM on July 6, 2010

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