Written by David Hatz, Teacher, Coach, Statistician (ret.)
Great writing does not happen by accident. Writing, as I am certain your English
teachers have been emphasizing to you for years, is a process. Once the first draft is finished,
the next steps are proofread, edit, revise – then rinse and repeat (multiple times) until you
make it the best it can be.
And like many English teachers and writers, I believe the writing process is an ongoing
and never complete. While I have read many excellent books, essays, editorials, columns, etc., I
would argue that all of those texts could have been even better with another read-and-write
Further, in my 22 years of teaching English, from freshmen to AP English Language and
Composition to senior rhetoric and writing, I never gave a student 100% on an essay. I awarded
many with A’s and a few A-plusses (98 and 99%), but never 100%. Why? Because I never read a
“perfect” paper – there was always room for improvement, ways to make it better.
On the other hand, I have read countless student submissions that were obviously one-
and-done, and/or last-minute, night-before/morning-of compositions that were full of errors,
contradictions, and were veritable cornucopias of nonsensical words and phrases. Yes, they
earned a grade deserving of their effort.
One of my favorite activities to illustrate to students just how bad “finished” products
are was to surprise them on the day their papers were due. Rather than have students submit
their work, I would have them pair up. Then we would walk to the quad or the big lawn and
paired students would find a quiet place away from the others. Students would exchange
papers. Student A would then slowly read Student B’s paper to him/her. Student B could stop
Student A at any time so s/he could make notes for editing purposes later on. Once finished,
the two would reverse roles so Student A could critique his/her work.
I would visit each pair of students as they read. Frequently the student who was hearing
his essay would remark (or gasp in shock) something to the effect of, “that doesn’t make
sense!” “I can’t believe I wrote that,” or “wait, what?!”
The epiphanies were endless, and every student realized they still had “a little” (or a lot)
of work to do before turning in what they previously thought was a great paper, or at the least
Speaking of which, I know students are often content to submit assignments they
believe are “good enough.” If you are one of those, may I suggest you adopt a new mantra:
“Good enough usually isn’t.”
If you have never done this activity, I would encourage you try it with your next writing
assignment; the results will likely surprise you and, hopefully, change your approach to writing.
• • •
Here is an English Game you can play to demonstrate how the placement of a single
word can change the meaning of a sentence. Try it, then read each sentence and see for
Place the word “only” anywhere in the following sentence:
“She told him that she loved him.
• • •
Several blogs ago I discussed types of homophones and homographs, which include
words that may be spelled the same but are pronounced differently and have different
Here are a few more. I hope you enjoy them and are again reminded why English can be
such a difficult language and can cause one “brain aches.”:
• Minute and minute should not be spelled the same;
• I am not content with the content;
• I object to that object;
• I need to read again what I read;
• Excuse me, but there is no excuse for this;
• Someone should wind up this blog and throw it into the wind.