The Guide to the Favors Writing Center is based in part on the initial development for The Favors Glossary: Guide to Using Margin Comments for Revising Academic Essays (2011) as well as its vision. To understand the Favors Writing Center, you must understand why I wrote the book and how the ideas within it will transition into this platform and a newly revised companion text.


Previous Experiences

The Favors Glossary grows from my concern for college students who struggle with revising academic papers, developing an editing plan, and applying the professor’s margin comments throughout the revision process. Professors red-ink a student’s paper with such comments as “be specific” or “explain this more.” Students receive the papers but do not know where to begin. They do not know how to approach revising the thesis, topic sentences, supporting evidence, analysis, and other essay sections.

As a former student, graduate TA, drop-in writing tutor, and English adjunct instructor, I have witnessed first-hand the college student’s difficulty with test (essay) prompts and take-home final exams. I have witnessed also their struggles with creating an essay that fully reflects the professor’s instructions.

For example, professors require students to analyze a literary work, but students develop plot summary. They do not know the difference between analyzing and retelling the story. In my own struggles as a college student, I could never understand what my professors were telling me when they said, “much more could be said here” and “discuss this.”  The whole academic writing process became more and more frustrating as the years came and went.

It was not until I served as a student drop-in writing tutor for the Department of Rhetoric and Writing Studies at San Diego State University that I came to understand why students have trouble with writing and revising the academic essay. My service as a drop-in writing tutor was great training ground. My role was instrumental in my decision to write this textbook and also to create the learning center.

Notable Features

The glossary defines more than 170 comments. To come up with the definitions for these comments, we sifted through old academic papers the author wrote for many English classes, from junior college to graduate study.

Over the course of a seven-year academic career, Ms. Favors had written at least 100 papers, including one-page response papers, take-home final exams, in-class final exams, short essays, and the like. She was grateful to have professors who were taskmasters. Their feedback provided the comments necessary to form the basis of the textbook. 

The Favors Glossary provided definitions for the margin comments based upon Ms. Favors’s understanding and review of the essays as a first-year composition instructor. Among the most common terms are the following:

  • 2.47 Analyze This
  • 1.9 Audience
  • 2.48 Avoid Plot Summary
  • 1.12 Awkward
  • 1.15 Cliche
  • 1.41 Delete
  • 1.34 Examine Evidence from the Text
  • 2.18 Lacks a Clear Argument
  • 2.41 Misquoting the Evidence

From many of the common terms, she developed additional terms that students and instructors will find helpful. These terms include the following:

  • 1.43 Doesn’t Respond to Question
  • 1.24 I Don’t Understand What You Are Trying to Say Here
  • 7.12 This Doesn’t Occur
  • 7.9 Solid Effort
  • 8.13 Winnow, Winnow, Winnow

The content developed for these margin comments is instructive, ushering the writing student into a revision process based on the feedback. The feedback becomes the new instruction to guide revision writers back onto the path of the assignment.

The glossary is primarily designed to be a post-writing, evaluation checklist. The glossary does not and should not take the place of the professor’s primary instructions unless the professor uses the glossary as part of a lecture discussion. Each instructor is different. How a teacher presents a set of instructions on the page will be different from another professor’s essay prompt.

However, collectively, professors follow the rules of the canon and the guiding principles of their respective disciplines, so to use the glossary as a substitute when it does not serve as the primary text is to ignore the foundation your professor has built for the classroom. The Favors Glossary is a teaching tool, and it can serve as a reference source.

The Favors Glossary uniquely closes the communication gap between the professor and the student in that it provides a uniform code of comments to help the student understand what the professor means concerning a particular comment written within the margin of a certain paragraph. Professors and instructors alike can use this glossary as a guiding principle for writing comments on their students’ papers.

When students receive their papers with comments written in the margins, they, in turn, can refer to the definition of a comment, read it, and understand what a professor means by, for example, “Be Specific.” The glossary promotes uniformity among the English academic community and related writing disciplines.

Pedagogical Considerations

The glossary is ideal for both English classes and ESL students in developmental writing courses. In our experiences as adjunct instructors and full-time professors, we have taught both English and English as a Second Language at the community college level. Our main teaching mission is to help students teach the material to themselves. Students need to learn how to examine a sentence linguistically.

Particularly, ESL students struggle to apply grammar in everyday situations because they have problems understanding the differences between the use of grammar in the classroom and the real-world application of grammar. For example, the current teaching model is inundated with fill-in-the-blank exercises where students through memorization techniques and rote learning activities do not develop a relationship with the grammatical sentence. A curriculum designer has created the sentences for the exercises, instructing the student to write the answer on the line. The student performs this action using memorization, not critical thinking.

In essence, when an ESL student answers the question, he or she cannot determine if the answer actually “fits” on the line. In other words, if the direction states, “Use Perfect Progressive,” students find that the only challenge they have is directly related to choosing between “past,” “present,” and “future” tenses. They have not learned how to evaluate the sentence or think critically about it.   

Our approach to teaching focuses more on the student’s capacity and capability to think.  In our classes, we teach students how to examine the sentence, in its complexity, and how to understand the function of each part within the sentence. A sentence that has an adjective but that does not have a noun for which the adjective needs to modify is not a fully functional sentence, nor is the adjective in the sentence “an adjective.” In our ESL classes, we teach students how to read the sentence grammatically. They read the punctuation marks right along with the actual words in the sentence. In essence, they learn to “read the period.”

Similarly, the task of writing is no different than understanding grammar. The essay has a purpose. Professors test your ability to synthesize what you have learned throughout the course into written form. Each paragraph within an essay has a function. Each topic sentence of a paragraph should support the function of the thesis. If one link within the essay does not fit, then the progress of the thesis, like a train, comes to a complete stop. Only through revision can an example, a topic sentence, and/or a quote get back onto the train tracks, theoretically. A train cannot travel in two different directions at the same time. In essence, a thesis must keep to the course from which it starts.

How can you use a book that is largely similar to a dictionary? You can design a lecture and a group activity around this glossary. One example of a group activity might be for one student to peer tutor another student’s paper. For example, as the instructor, you could assign five comments for a week that deal with how to expand, elaborate, or discuss an idea. The Favors Glossary offers many options for such a task.  In addition, peer tutoring is an effective classroom discussion tool. During in-class activities, you could instruct students to write within the margins of another student’s paper, using some of the margin comments of this glossary. The following sample comments would work for any first-year composition student assessing a peer’s writing draft:

  • 2.48 Avoid Plot Summary
  • 2.14 Clarify
  • 1.21 Discuss/Discuss This
  • 2.35 Explain Why This is Significant
  • 2.61 Follow-Up/Follow-Through (Good/Perfect)
  • 2.39 Incomplete
  • 2.69 Points Don’t Connect
  • 2.31 Provide Examples
  • 7.10 Specify
  • 7.16 Transitions

For the use of these feedback comments to be effective, first-year composition instructors would have to teach them, use them as a class discussion tool, and grade students on their abilities to understand and apply the concept. Students can remember and get practice with these feedback comments during peer tutoring exercises. Therefore, the glossary is best useful when it is incorporated into the syllabus and into classroom activities.


Favors Writing Center is an online resource for first-year composition instructors and students engaged in the revision planning process. Favors Writing Center is a product of Favors Learning Center Online Products, a product of Favors Learning Center, which is in development.


The purpose of the Favors Writing Center, as an extension of the ideas explored within the initial text, is to function as an online source for teaching revision writing.


The goal of Favors Writing Center is to encourage first-year composition instructors to teach feedback, using the margin comment as a guide to usher students into revision. Teaching feedback with the margin comment will help instructors measure student capacity and capability for revision writing.


Discussions are still categorized under type of draft, but comments are grouped as practical tasks focusing a single objective, such as managing for focus and clarity of expression, revising for ambiguity, developing a revision plan, and managing use of evidence.

Each writing draft has its challenges, and the appropriate feedback helps students to navigate the revision processes. In essence, a first or second draft is never the final draft. Revision is at the heart of ensuring students meet the assignment appropriately and accurately.


The presentation of feedback comments is grouped under specific categories and created as a downloadable teaching document. This makes it easier for first-year composition instructors and students to focus their efforts on a theme, paragraph, structural issue, assignment gap, and/or general content development. The audience is specific to not only first-year composition instruction, but also teaching of writing courses at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

Copyright (C) 2011-2022 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.