Red ink means something very different for writers than it does for accountants. For accountants, red ink means the company is losing money. For writers, red ink is the color of corrections. I might also add, for this writer at least, red ink is the color of learning to become a better writer.
My daughter brought home an English paper yesterday that was covered in red ink. While some parents might have been upset by that, I actually rejoiced. Why? Because I saw that the teacher was concerned with a quality writing style as much as she was concerned with content and proofreading. I know that under such a teacher/editor my daughter’s writing skills will be fine-tuned this year (as mine were under a similar teacher many years ago).
I typically proofread my kids’ papers before they turn them in. I point out simple spelling and obvious grammar errors. I also look for completeness. I don’t, however, deal much with style. I could, I suppose, rewrite each paper into a well-honed piece of professional writing. However, not only would this be a spectacular waste of time on my part, it would rob my kids of the chance to make their own mistakes and develop their own unique writing style.
Although my daughter was a little bit dismayed at the teacher’s edits (she’s used to doing well on English papers), I pointed out that the teacher marked the very things that professional writers seek to avoid: excessive use of passive voice, vague statements, and unsupported conclusions. I also pointed out that once you learn to write well it is a skill that will serve you for your entire life, regardless of what career you choose to follow.
I should point out that this occurred to my oldest daughter and that she is in high school. She is ready to learn these more advanced writing concepts. I would feel differently if I saw the same markings on the English paper of an early elementary-aged student.
Do you proofread your child’s papers? If so, how much correction do you provide? Do you think a strict editor is a good way to hone your writing skill? Why, or why not?
Contents (c) Copyright 2007, Laura Spencer. All rights reserved.