Writing correction code

This is a common tool to optimise learning opportunities from mistakes learners make in written work and to encourage the editing stages of process writing.

Paul Kaye

You show the learners where the mistakes are and what kind they are, and then they try to correct them as a second stage to the initial writing task. The codes shown here are just an example and are not meant to all be used at every level. You need to find out which ones work for you and your learners.


Make copies of the writing error correction code and worksheet.


  • The first time you intend to use the correction code, explain to your learners what you are going to do and why (in L1 if necessary). Give them a copy of the code and talk through each one. Then give them the worksheet (or make one more appropriate for your learners). Ask the learners to correct the mistakes on it using the code.
  • Set the writing task, either as homework or in class. Ask learners to write double-spaced or leave a large margin.
  • Collect the work and correct it using the correction code. Underline the mistakes you want learners to notice and add the codes, either underneath or in the margin.
  • Return the work and ask learners to correct it.

Alternative procedures

  1. Collect some writing and then select the most interesting/productive mistakes and prepare a worksheet for the class to work on together. Keep it short – this is tricky for learners and takes time. You can make it harder by not underlining the mistake, just selecting the sentence. Make sure you first ask permission from your learners to do this.
  2. After learners have corrected their work, ask them to share some of the corrections in mini-presentations. They can do this individually or in groups.
  3. If your learners have access at home or in class to a device, learners could use a program like Word to write, then send it to you. You can then use the comments function to add the correction code.

Some observations

Learners find this very motivating but there are some things to think about:

  • Don't overdo it. One correction per line of an extended text is enough.
  • Be consistent with the system you use. Choose your code based on your learners' level and awareness of mistakes.
  • Be supportive. Explain why you are doing this and be available to help.
  • Be punctual returning homework. Get a rhythm of correction going.
  • Encourage your learners to re-submit their work as many times as they want. You can correct at different levels each time, e.g. start with word and sentence structure, then look at style, register and lay-out.
  • Remember correcting your own mistakes is not easy.
Language Level


Submitted by Venture English on Mon, 01/21/2013 - 01:24


Is it possible to get the answers for the worksheet. Sounds silly but I would like to be sure of my corrections and able to explain why the correction was necessary. Thanks,

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