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  • Always err on the side of kindness and encouragement.

  • Feedback letters should include a greeting and a sign-off. They should be at least a ½ page long and 2-3 paragraphs (300 words, minimum).

  • Include the name of the essay you are responding to in the first few lines of your letter.

  • Begin with praise, noting, as specifically as possible, what you found delightful, exciting, moving, funny, or innovative.

  • State what, from your perspective, seemed to be at the heart of the piece. What seemed, thematically and emotionally, most important?

  • Begin a new paragraph in which to ask questions and offer constructive feedback. Focus on one or two aspects, and, again, be as specific as possible. (Try using the word “because” to develop your feedback from “I found the part about the fish confusing” to “I found the part about the fish confusing because I thought the narrator was walking through the desert.”)

  • Wrap up with one last encouraging remark.

Reminders and considerations:

  • Offer feedback that you believe might help the writer to more effectively achieve whatever goal they seem to have set out to achieve. In other words, carefully consider what each writer is “up to” and offer help from that perspective—rather than asking for revisions to make the essay more like the kind of essay you like or would have written.

  • Your letters do not have to be exhaustive (overwhelming) lists of praise and/or revision ideas. Focus on 2-3 positives and 1-2 areas that the writer might work on. Remember that each writer will be receiving multiple letters, so, again, no need to say it all.

  • Phrase your feedback so that your sentences focus on the story/writing and not on the writer. Lean more toward “The essay/the writing/the narrator” statements rather than “You” statements. Think more in terms of responding rather than evaluating.

  • If you notice a grammatical issue (e.g. the tense seems to shift throughout the piece), feel free to note it, but don’t dwell too long in grammar or punctuation. Think less about line editing and more about global, thematic coherence–about ideas.