Joe Fore

A Guide to Giving Writing Feedback that Sticks

UVA Center for Teaching Excellence


The blog posts in this series on feedback have focused mostly on the stylistic and procedural aspects of feedback: how to prime students to receive constructive feedback, how to phrase feedback so it’s received well, and how to provide feedback in different formats for greater efficiency. Now we turn our attention to a more substantive aspect of writing feedback: what and how much to comment on. Too often, writing instructors feel compelled to point out every issue—however large or small—that we see in a piece of student writing: a weak topic sentence at the start of the paragraph, a flawed use of evidence a few sentences later, a typo in that same sentence, and a citation error at the paragraph’s end. We sometimes measure our feedback’s value by the pound; each mark we make on the page is valuable, and more is better. But, much of the time, feedback fails not because students are getting too little feedback—but, rather, too much (Grearson, 2002). The reality is that students can only learn so much on one assignment (Enns & Smith, 2015). By trying to force 25 different lessons on students in a single set of comments, there’s a real risk that they’ll actually take away none.


Joe Fore, A Guide to Giving Writing Feedback that Sticks, UVA Center for Teaching Excellence (2022).