Working on writing: Peer reviews and close readings

Applies to
Microsoft Word 2002

Fountain pen writing on paper

Everyone knows that to be a great writer, you need a great editor. It is so difficult to see your own writing that hearing how others read what you've written can really help you make your content crisp. A side benefit for those doing the review is that acting as editor is a great way to understand what works in language and what misses the mark. And talking about the ideas can help to generate other ideas or to expand the ones you have.

Doing close readings of others' work, including the classic writers, exposes the tricks and the styles in writing and exposes how writers of all sorts move from the beginning through the middle to the end of their story. What better way to learn how to develop an argument than to read and analyze how Sir Francis Bacon, for example, set up his own essay-style arguments?

Microsoft Word has a number of tools that can make the logistics of peer review and close readings easy and efficient.

Getting feedback on your writing

Getting comments on your work after you've spent hours on it can sometimes be hard to bear. However, it's always good to know that the paragraph you thought was crystal clear is being misunderstood by your audience. And that is what a peer review will tell you. Feedback from your audience, if they follow some basic ground rules for etiquette, almost always can help you improve your work. So bite the bullet and send that precious document out to your peers.

But first, set a few guidelines:

  • Tell your readers the types of things you are interested in hearing from them. For example, do your examples make sense? Does the organization read logically?
  • Let them know what they shouldn't worry about — perhaps you don't care about typos since you'll be running the spelling checker later on.
  • Tell them their comments should include nothing personal. Their function is not to critique you, but to critique a piece of writing on a particular subject.

Sending your document out for review

There are several ways to send out a document for review using Office programs:

Analyzing a writer's style: close reading with Word

When you do a close reading, you are looking at the ways the writer uses language to create a point, a tone, or a specific style. Often the writer uses language as if it were a character in the novel or essay. A great way to start to understand how various the interpretations of a paragraph are is to have everyone in your peer group analyze the same paragraph, adding their comments to the document.

Merging comments from multiple reviewers

The ability to merge comments means that you can see everyone's ideas and comments all at once. Why not try doing this with a paragraph from a classic writer or the text of an advertisement?