Tools and advice to revise your writing assignments

Please improve your pieces of writing by making use of my remarks and my proof-reading symbols and marks on your papers, whose meaning is explained below. When you hand in your improved version, please always hand in the initial version with my proof-reading marks too, so that I might see how you set about to amend your initial piece.


Rémy Bethmont’s proof-reading marks

~~~~~ (wavy underline) = awkward (and sometimes unclear)

—— or …… (broken underline) = I’m not sure this is the best word or the best way of saying what you want to say in English.

?? or ??? = I can’t understand (the more ? there are, the more puzzled I am).

awk. = awkward

coll. = colloquial

gall. = gallicism

Gr = grammar (this may refer to problems with tenses, with the construction of an uncountable noun, the use of articles, etc)

M.W. = Missing Word

punct. = punctuation

ref. = it is not clear what the term or phrase refers to (for example, the underlined term will often be a pronoun which refers to nothing that the reader can immediately identify).

spell. = spelling

syn. = syntax

W.F. = Wrong Form (e.g. reflecting instead of reflect or reflection).

W.O. = Word Order

W.W. = Wrong Word

Please note that a W.W. or W.F. issue may be solved in other ways than by simply replacing the word or the form by another (although this will often constitute the best, most obvious solution). In some cases, you may find it better to rephrase the whole sentence, sometimes the whole paragraph.


A few pieces of advice to revise the initial version of your paper

  • Use a dictionary like the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (paper versions available at the BU) not only for vocabulary but also for grammar issues. This kind of dictionary gives you several examples for each term, so that you may know exactly in what kinds of contexts each particular term is used. It also indicates which preposition is habitually used with each adjective, which construction is used with each verb, whether a noun is countable or uncountable, etc.
  • Never use a bilingual dictionary without looking up the English term afterwards in an English dictionary. The bilingual dictionary will not always give you the kinds of contexts in which the English word is used nor will it always make clear which English word to use if several translations are given for the word you have looked up in your native tongue.
  • When you are not sure about the use of a phrase, the correct preposition or construction usually associated with a particular word, etc, and the dictionary does not help, then google your phrase or word (in inverted commas: e.g. “contribute to making”) in the google search engine and see whether this phrase, word or construction exists in web texts written by native English speakers. If it does, observe how it is used and decide whether it matches what you wanted to use this phrase or word for. Make sure the website is based in an English-speaking country and beware of the English-language pages of international organisations; they may be the result of less-than-ideal translations from a foreign language into English. English language forums will also usually come up in a google search; they can sometimes be useful.