A Guide to My Editorial Comments
Here's a list of some standard abbreviations for editorial comments I use
while grading. Other marks and symbols can be found in the back of most ENGL
1101 textbooks and on the attached
PDF file from Timothy
Corrigan's A Short Guide to Writing About Film, 4th edition.
At the end of your paper, you may see the following letters. See
the Department of Language and Literature's
Guidelines for full explanations of the three main criteria used to evaluate
is accurate, details are relevant, and examples clearly support arguments.
O Organization uses
clear transitions and establishes a logical, coherent, focused order of
MGS Mechanics, Grammar, and Style demonstrate correct
and effective punctuation, sentence structure, tone, etc.
Abbreviations and Editing Symbols
A wavy line under or beside text, Circled text, or Red
highlighted text: The text that is circled/wavy underlined/red is questionable
for some reason. Often it's a question of logic, accuracy, or spelling, but can
it be accompanied by one of the other comments as well, usually AWK.
A straight underline under text is the shorthand
note-taking that I use to follow your main points as I read your paper. (Note
that my usage differs from Corrigan's underline in the attached PDF file above.)
A check mark means "good," as do words written in the
margin like "good," "yes," "nice" (might look like "mice" due to my
handwriting), or "excellent."
Clarify: your wording and/or argument is unclear and
should be more carefully explained.
AWK: awkward phrasing
BR: bad break
CE: comma error (unnecessary comma or misplaced comma)
CS: comma splice
GL: gendered language (rephrase to avoid "man" when you mean
ITAL/UND: italicize or underline titles (not quotation marks!)
PV: passive voice (rephrase using active voice for clarity & brevity)
RO: run-on or fused sentence
SGWF: Check A Short Guide to Writing About Film for correct phrasing,
SP: spelling error
SV: subject-verb agreement error
US: Use U.S. instead of British punctuation w/ quotation marks (Incorrect: "film", or
"film". Correct: "film," or "film.")
WC: word choice is questionable or incorrect
Writing About Films: Style and Mechanics
How to Cite
Film Title (Director, Year)
The first time that we mention a film in our writing, it should be followed
by the director’s name and the year of release in parentheses. Film titles
should be either underlined or italicized (whatever you prefer), but never
should they be enclosed in quotation marks (some periodicals or emails use
quotation marks, but only because neither italics nor underline formatting is
available). If you include some of the information in your sentence, then
appropriately omit that information from the parentheses.
- Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954) presents several motifs that
contribute to and comprise the narrative.
- Alfred Hitchcock explores the underside of neighborly relations in
Rear Window (1954).
When writing about the narrative of a film, we talk about characters, not
actors. It is not Julia Roberts who was married to George Clooney in Ocean’s
11; rather it is Tess (Julia Roberts) who was married to Danny Ocean (George
Clooney). The first time that we mention a character’s name, the actor’s name
follows in parentheses. Every mention of the character thereafter should not be
followed by the parenthetical actor’s name—just the first appearance of the
character in the prose.
Example: L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) suspects that
Thorwald (Raymond Burr) has killed his wife (Irene Winston).
Formatting and Grammar Rules to Follow
- Format: Assignments should be typed in something comparable to
Times New Roman 12 pt. font (use your judgment). Please don’t insult our
intelligence with enormous fonts that surprisingly fill up a page with only
a paragraph written. Neither strive to crunch ten pages worth of analysis
into five with only a trick of font reduction or margin play. For written
assignments that you will submit in hard copy, margins should be 1”, and
pages must be numbered. Include your name, date, and course number at the
top of your assignment. You work too hard to risk anonymity.
- Spell check, but not at the expense of your own better judgment.
For example, we know that Charlie Kane’s last name begins with a “K” and not
a “C.” Do not let spell check convince you otherwise. For each screening, we
will distribute a handout on which all primary characters/actors are listed,
and you can find all character/actor names at
www.IMDB.com. Be sure to consult these resources. There is no excuse for
misspelling the name of a character, actor, director, or film title.
- Please note this frequent spelling error: diegetic is spelled
with an “E” (it is not spelled “diagetic” with an "A").
- Write in complete sentences: subject + verb. Be careful to make
your thoughts complete. Fragments can sometimes slip into your prose
during the wee hours of the morning as you frantically compose assignments.
To further avoid fragments, be careful when using commas and semi-colons. A
semi-colon can only connect two complete sentences, and it should be used
Jeff looked out the window but could see nothing; only a vast darkness.
looked out the window but could see nothing, only a vast darkness.
its brevity and clarity): Jeff looked out the window but saw only darkness.
- Use literary present tense. Even though our very watching of the
film means that it was made in the past, we still are experiencing this
specific narrative as it is present to us. Although Hitchcock made Rear
Window in 1954, we write about this film in 2004 in the present tense
because it is immediate to us.
The camera pans with the character.
The camera panned with the character.
- Avoid run-on sentences. The comma splice (if you see CS on
your paper, you are guilty!) is a common cause. A comma cannot join two
complete sentences; rather, two complete sentences can be separated by a
comma/conjunction, a semi-colon, or a period.
INCORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud,” Thompson seeks its
CORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud,” and Thompson seeks its
CORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud”; Thompson seeks its meaning.
CORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud.” Thompson seeks its meaning.
- Notice, that the “its” of the second complete sentence refers to
“Rosebud.” Whenever you use a pronoun, it refers back to the most immediate
noun (agreeing in number and gender) that precedes the pronoun. Be careful
with your pronoun usage for precision.
- Be careful with agreement of pronouns and number. If you refer to
one person, use singular pronouns; if you refer to more than one person, use
plural pronouns. The only exception to this is when avoiding gendered
language by using "they."
- Try to avoid ending sentences with prepositions. Restructure the
sentence or add an object of the preposition.
- Avoid gendered language that assumes a masculine neutrality.
“Man” refers only to men, whereas “humanity” refers to both men and women.
“He” refers only to one man and not any person. Replace “he” with “s/he” or
“he or she” or "they." If this becomes too wordy for your preference, simply
use “one” or rephrase to avoid the pronoun.
- Learn your homonyms. They’re/their/there, here/hear, to/too/two,
etc.: these are mistakes we see with disconcerting frequency. These were
lessons from elementary school—remember them, or learn them again for the
first time. Either way, be careful with your usage.
- “Its” is possessive, and “it’s” is the contraction for “it
- Use precise diction and syntax. If you do not know what
these words mean, find their definitions in the dictionary or in your ENGL
1101 and 1102 textbooks. It is your responsibility to utilize these and
other writing resources toward your increased linguistic accuracy.
Writing Rules to Follow
- Simplify, simplify, simplify. Condense your prose to write as
densely and succinctly as you can while maintaining clarity. If two
sentences express what could be condensed into one, then please write just
one sentence. Each sentence should express something new or contribute an
additional element of support to your argument. These assignments are too
short for repeated paraphrases.
- Use the terminology that we learned in CMS 2100 and write in
active voice. This combination will help you condense your writing more
than anything else.
- Avoid plot summary. Never summarize or rehash the film’s plot!
All of the films that we watch this semester are films with which we are
intimately familiar. Our reading your reiteration of the plot is as boring
as your writing a reiteration of the plot. Really, folks—take advantage of
this opportunity to write original ideas, to dazzle your instructors with
your keen perceptions and witty prose, and to impress yourself with your
knowledge. Please do not waste your time with the obvious.
- Basic structure of analysis: assert and support. For every claim
or argument that you make, you should include details from the film that
bolster your idea. Your argument should be something that moves beyond the
obvious by incorporating particular nuances of the film toward the
formulation of a complex idea. You are responsible for the details of a
film. Take notes, re-watch the movie, or do whatever you need to
do--legally--in order to represent accurately the film in your argument. As
far as this class is concerned, there are no “wrong” arguments or “mis”
readings of films; there are, however, unsubstantiated or unsupported
arguments, and this will be taken as the equivalent. Step by step, your
analysis should clearly show not simply tell.
- Remember, you are composing a film analysis and not a film review.
We all love movies, and indeed, the films we will be screening are in many
ways worth your infinite admiration. Realize that you will offer more praise
to the film by appreciating some element of its composition than you would
by simply offering the word “masterpiece.” Admittedly, minimizing our
gushing can often be challenging, but we can work together to esteem the
films through our careful, well-supported arguments.
(The "Writing About Films: Style and Mechanics" section above
was adapted with permission from the syllabi of Dr. Kristi McKim.)