Comment Templates: Tips and Examples

Feedback emerged as the hero and the anti-hero of our study−powerful enough to convince students that they could or couldn't do the work in a given field, to push them toward or away from selecting their majors, and contributed, more than any other single factor, to students' sense of academic belonging or alienation.

—2004 Harvard Study of Writing* 

As seen in this quotation, feedback on student writing has a huge impact on students. At the same time, assessment of writing can be time consuming and tiring. To maximize your time, use TEMPLATES to avoid redundancy in commenting. A quick cut and paste can save you several minutes or more per paper.

 Templates can be useful for both margin comments and for block comments (a letter that you include for each student, summarizing the main strengths and weaknesses of the piece of writing).

You can make a repository of more specific comments to cut/paste/customize as both margin and block comments. Keep this document open on your computer as you are commenting on essays, and cut/paste as needed. Focus on common / repeat problems and keep these comments general so that they are most useful for many students. For example: 

  • The thesis statement is getting lost in the introduction. Look to clearly and concisely articulate what you will argue in the essay. This claim usually appears at/towards the end of the introduction.
  • The thesis statement is currently more of a topic to explore, rather than a claim of what you will argue. As you refine your argument, adjust the thesis language to reflect the result of your exploration. What will you ARGUE?
  • This sentence / claim requires a citation.
  • This transition is a bit abrupt. Look to include transition language to help the reader move through the essay. How does this new idea/paragraph connect to or grow from the paragraph before?

Another time saving technique is using a template for your block comments. Below are several examples of templates for block comments to expedite the commenting process for both drafts (no grade assigned) and final revision (grade assigned).



Dear XX:

There are some really strong ideas in this draft! CUSTOMIZE STUDENT STRENGTHS. Very nice start!

Moving forward, I’m excited to see you develop your argument more in the revision. Think about the following as you work on your edits:


I look forward to seeing your ideas evolve. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.

Best wishes,




 Dear XX,

 This revision has come a long way from the draft. CUSTOMIZE GROWTH/IMPROVEMENTS.

 As you look towards your next paper, keep the following in mind:



Great work! I look forward to reading your next essay.

Best wishes,



Elissa Jacobs and Paige Eggebrecht


*cited at