Writing Wrongs: Editors Help Students Avoid Costly Errors

College students struggling to write the perfect paper often turn to friends or parents for help in correcting everything about from here”>from punctuation to syntax errors to misspellings.

This article is about Writing Wrongs: Editors Help Students Avoid Costly Errors

College students struggling to write the perfect paper often turn to friends or parents for help in correcting everything from punctuation to syntax errors to misspellings.

Chances are, however, that unless Mom and Dad are working for The Washington Post, some things are going to fall through the cracks, and junior may be less than thrilled with his final grade.

Students have another resource for help polishing those all-important essays: online editorial services like Scribendi.com.

“It’s important to have someone check your work before you hand it in,” says Chandra Clarke, a director of Scribendi.com. “Especially if you’ve been working on it in the wee hours of the morning, as students often do.”

A variety of research supports the need for an objective set of eyes to critique writing and fix errors. A study by Meredyth Daneman and Murray Stainton of the University of Toronto tested whether proofreading one’s own writing is harder than proofreading someone else’s.

Subjects spent 30 minutes writing an essay, then proofread their own papers as well as those written by others. The results showed that subjects were less able to detect errors in their own essays. The reason? Self-generated text is too familiar to the writer. In other words, people usually see what they expect to see in their own writing, not necessarily what is there.

And while most writers will run spelling and grammar checks on papers before turning them in, this is not a foolproof solution. That’s because there are two types of spelling errors: non-word errors, which create a string of letters that do not make up a real word, and word errors, in which the misspelling results in a real word that is incorrect in the context of the sentence.

Humans catch only 75 percent of word errors, according to Raymond Panko, professor of information technology management at the University of Hawaii. Spell-checkers catch non-word errors but miss word errors – the very mistakes that people have a hard time finding.

An editor, however, can provide a fresh set of eyes and catch errors that a student didn’t even know existed. In addition, editors tend to look at the text with no preconceptions about what is supposed to be there, so they won’t miss those image-hurting mistakes.

Some services like Scribendi go a step further by offering constructive criticism and explaining word usage issues and standard writing practices. Students get a better document while learning how to improve their own writing.


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