Aim: I find it useful to give students a checklist before expecting them to edit their own work, or indeed to undertake peer correction. The following checklist is from a creative writing module I taught. It can be adapted for almost any level or any type of writing. It can also be personalised for individual students and added to over time so it reflects errors or problems that they make. Over time it will serve as a memory jogger for common problems.
Level: A2+ (when adapted)
The first time you write something is only the beginning to get your ideas down. That is the fun part! After that, the hard work begins… Here we will look at three main areas: paragraphs, grammar and vocabulary.
Use this checklist to try and make your writing as accurate, clear and as interesting as possible. First make notes on your first draft and then write the piece out again.
Have you used any paragraphs? Have you used them in the correct places?
There are three main places where you would start a new paragraph:
- When you change location or time.
…..After they finished dinner, Jane was shattered and so headed off to bed to get an early night. She was asleep before her head hit the pillow.
The next morning the sunlight through the thin curtains on the window woke her early….
2. When you change to a new idea.
…her eyes met his and she smiled, a spark of electricity passed between them. His brown eyes reminded her of her father.
She still missed her father even now, ten years after his death. She thought about him every day….
3. In dialogue (start a new line every time someone speaks)
“Hello?” she called “Is there anyone here?”
Her voice echoed in the darkness. Suddenly she heard heavy footsteps behind her. Before she had a chance to turn she heard a gruff male voice.
“Who are you and what do you want?”
*Remember, when you start a new paragraph you need to start a new line and indent.*
Grammar is very important in making your ideas clear. You should know the errors that you often make and be checking for these. However, here are some common errors:
- Missing/too many verbs.
Does every clause have one main verb?
X He a big man. X He has is long hair.
2. Using the correct tense.
Generally, when we write prose we use the past tense, but this could be past simple, continuous or perfect. Also, when we write dialogue that could be in the present tense. You need to check your tenses agree after you finish writing.
3. Using the correct word form.
Sometimes you will be using the correct word but the form will be incorrect, for example nouns instead of verbs and adjectives instead of adverbs.
X She walked slow home. X He gave her lots of good inform.
4. Missing articles.
You need to be careful to include articles. Remember, normally the first time we mention something we use ‘a’ and then after ‘the’.
There was a young girl who lived in a forest. The girl was very beautiful.
5. Your own problems.
Do you have another grammar mistake you often make?
Write it here:
Your vocabulary is what makes your writing come alive and be interesting. Especially when creative writing – you need to use creative words!
- Repeating the nouns.
Try not to repeat nouns too much, use pronouns instead.
X At six o’clock the man entered the bar. The man sat down and ordered a drink. The man drank quickly.
2. Repeating adjectives/adverbs.
Try not to repeat adjectives or adverbs either, it is boring! There are thousands of words in English, try and find some new ones. Check your writing to see if you are always using the same vocabulary to describe things.
3. Using boring adjectives/adverbs.
Boring words are words like nice, good, happy, sad, etc. Can you find a more interesting way to say this?
4. Use similes!
Similes are an excellent way to make your writing more exciting! Look at your writing and find a boring adjective. See if you can change it to a simile.
He had blue eyes. = His eyes were as blue as the ocean.
When you finish writing you should always go back and read your work and check you are happy with it. It is often a good idea to read it out loud as then you will read more slowly and carefully and are more likely to notice mistakes. Or give it to a friend to read and ask their opinion, they will notice things you may have missed and might be able to give you some suggestions.