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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 Writing Guidelines for full explanations of the three main criteria used to evaluate all writing:

C        Content is accurate, details are relevant, and examples clearly support arguments.
O        Organization uses clear transitions and establishes a logical, coherent, focused order of arguments.
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 "human," etc.)

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, terminology, etc.

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.



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


            INCORRECT: Jeff looked out the window but could see nothing; only a vast darkness.
            CORRECT: Jeff looked out the window but could see nothing, only a vast darkness.
            BETTER (for its brevity and clarity): Jeff looked out the window but saw only darkness.


            CORRECT: The camera pans with the character.
            INCORRECT: The camera panned with the character.


INCORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud,” Thompson seeks its meaning.
CORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud,” and Thompson seeks its meaning.
CORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud”; Thompson seeks its meaning.
CORRECT: Charlie Kane whispers “Rosebud.” Thompson seeks its meaning.

Writing Rules to Follow

(The "Writing About Films: Style and Mechanics" section above was adapted with permission from the syllabi of Dr. Kristi McKim.)