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Austin's Editing Marks

This is a guide to the symbols I use when marking up your writing assignments. Each symbol stands for a particular kind of error. By marking the types of errors you're making, my aim is to help you identify the areas on which you need to focus to improve the accuracy of your written English.

Important: When I mark up your assignments, I will not necessarily mark every single error you make. Instead, I will mark those errors that seem to occur most frequently in your writing, or those that cause the greatest difficulties for the reader.

When looking over my feedback on your writing, look for patterns. Which symbols do you see most often on your writing? Make sure you understand that particular category of error (ask me if you're unclear!) and in your future writing, focus on that specific issue.

Note: This guide is a work in progress. As I gather more examples I will add them to this guide, and add more detailed descriptions as well. If you want know more about a type of error I haven't documented very extensively, please ask me!

Standard editing marks

These are marks and symbols that are widely used in the English-speaking world when editing documents. I use them when marking up your papers, and you may well see other teachers using them as well.

Austin's special editing marks

These are symbols and abbreviations that I've invented. You won't necessarily see other people using these marks.

cs (Chinese-style sentence)


This mark means that this sentence is structured like a Chinese sentence, rather than an English sentence.


At a basic level, English and Chinese sentences are structured very differently. I like to think about the differences this way:

English sentences are like a tree, with many clauses branching off of the main trunk.

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Chinese sentences are like bamboo, a series of segments one after the other:

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Notice how each of those five clauses is a complete sentence on its own. You could just as easily use periods instead of commas:


Now imagine you take that bamboo sentence and translate it directly into English. It would look like this:

Chinese sentences are like bamboo, their structure is simple, the sentence's stem is made up of segments, there are no branches, it's not hard to write.

This is a very unnatural sentence in English. The reason it seems so strange is that it is missing coordinating conjunctions. In brief, a coordinating conjunction introduces another clause that is a full, grammatically complete sentence. Here is one way that sentence might look in more natural English:

Chinese sentences are like bamboo. Their structure is simple, because they are made of segments and do not have branches, and so they are not hard to write.

In this sentence, "because" and "and so" function as coordinating conjunctions.

If you see the "cs" mark on your paper, ask yourself: How could I include coordinating conjunctions so that this sentence sounds more natural in English? 

In addition, consider splitting the sentence into shorter pieces. A "Chinese-style sentence" translated into English is also often a run-on sentence -- a sentence that feels much, much too long!

Austin Woerner