Thought I'd share a five point rationale for having students submit essays online and a terrific resource I developed that has helped me save time grading essays while providing better quality comments this year for my seventh grade ELA students.


Why Submitting Essays Online Makes Sense


1. Having students submit their essays on the computer enhances the interactive writing process and the social context of writing by facilitating reader response and writer revision.

2. Submitting essays electronically is environmentally responsible, saves money, and provides an automatic portfolio of student work. Submission options are numerous: Google Docs®, Turnitin®, Moodle Docs®, Viper®, Screencast®, a school network dropbox, or e-mail.

3. Teachers can quickly respond to student essays by inserting text, links, and audio files in the comment bubbles within Microsoft Word®.

4. Teachers can require their students to address each comment by using Microsoft Word® “Track Changes.” Students then re-submit revisions and edits for peer and/or teacher review. Just like real professional writers do with their editors! 

5. Teachers can save their comments in the Autocorrects function of Microsoft Word® and assign a short alphanumeric code to automatically insert those comments. Here's how: How to Add in e-Comments to Microsoft Word Autocorrects. But why do this manually, one at a time when you can insert an entire e-comment bank of 438 entries automatically? Each comment offers a concise definition, explanation, and example of the most common writing issues. Of course, you can still have students submit paper copy essays and print or e-mail your e-comments, but why would you? Here's an example of one of the 438 e-comments.

Here's the Free Resource (Well... it does cost a nickel.)


Download the The Pennington Manual of Styleand insert the entire Essay e-Comments Bank of 438 entries in the Autocorrects function of Microsoft Word® 2003, 2007, and 2010 (XP, Vista, and Windows 7). And best of all… teachers are licensed to print the 47-page style manual for each of their students and place the e-comments on their personal computers, school network, and class web pages.

Tags: computer, egrading, emarking, essay, essays, grading, response, scored, writing

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Hi Mark,

This looks like a very interesting way to improve efficiency and depth of teacher feedback on draft essays. Two questions:

  1. You note this works on Windows. Any plans for a Mac version? I've got OS X 10.6.7, and am running Word for Mac 2011.
  2. You also say teachers can insert audio files in the Comment bubbles within Word. Is there a link to a site that explains the process for doing this?

Thanks in advance for your response, and I look forward to trying out this solution.

John Blaber




No plans on the e-comments yet for Macs, though I think my 47-page The Pennington Manual of Style is worth a nickel on its own. As to the audio comments inserts, here's how.


Teachers have been asking me for some examples of the 438 comments. Here is a nice sampling:

Introduction Paragraphs

Thesis statement does not respond to writing prompt. Re-read the writing prompt and dissect according to the WHO (the audience and role of the writer), the WHAT (the context of the writing topic), the HOW (the resource text title and author), and the DO (the key writing direction word).

Body Paragraphs: Argument, Analysis, Types of Evidence

Add support evidence. More evidence is needed to adequately support the major detail. Add evidence in major detail or minor detail sentences such as Fact, Example, Statistic, Comparison, Quote from an Authority, Logic, Experience, or Counter-Argument/Refutation. FE SCALE CR

Red Herring Errors An unconnected reference distracts the reader from the argument. Example: Poverty is the most important problem; however, the world has always had poor people. Explanation: The second clause distracts the reader from the issue of poverty as the most important problem.

Coherence, Word Choice, Sentence Variety, and Writing Style

Revise: Too Many “to-be” Verbs Consider limiting use of is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been to one per paragraph. To replace “to be verbs” 1. Substitute a more active verb 2. Begin the sentence with another word from the sentence 3. Change one of the words in the sentence into a verb form.


MLA Works Cited (Print Encyclopedia) Pennington, Mark. “Works Cited.” Encyclopedia of Writing. 1st ed. 1. El Dorado Hills, CA: Pennington Publishing, 2010. Print. In-Text Citation: (Pennington 212-213)

Grammatical Forms

Gerund Phrases A gerund phrase is an ____ing verb, connected to related words, and is used as a noun. Example: Driving a car has become a necessary skill these days.

Sentence Problems

Sentence Fragments A sentence fragment is only part of a complete sentence. To fix a sentence fragment, remove any subordinating conjunctions. Example: Although she found out where the boys were. Revision: She found out where the boys were.


Commas with Introductory Word(s) Use commas after introductory words, phrases, or clauses. Drop the comma if the sentence is very short and there is no necessary pause. Examples: First, listen to me. First of all, listen to me. After you first sit up, listen to me. Then I went home.


The i before e Spelling Rule Usually spell i before e (believe), but spell before i after a c (receive)and when the letters are pronounced as a long /a/ sound (neighbor). Exceptions to the i before erule include the following: neithereitherweirdforfeitcaffeineheight, to name a few.




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