Over the years, I have taken several different English classes and have had many teachers and professors ask me for tips to make proofreading feedback accessible for low vision. This is because they would often notice that I would accidentally ignore some of their corrections or not notice them because they were written in small print or in a weird place on the paper that I would not know where to look. While I am happy to report that my writing has improved greatly over the years, I still frequently get lots of proofreading and editing feedback and need to ensure that I can read it with my visual impairment. Here are my tips to make proofreading feedback accessible for low vision, perfect for English class or writing a research paper.
Use different colored pens
One of my elementary school teachers noticed that I would have trouble distinguishing different types of corrections such as spelling or grammar corrections. In order to help with this, they started using different colored pens for all students to write out feedback on specific proofreading errors. One color was for spelling, one color was for punctuation, one color was for adding/removing words, and so on. I could easily look at a paper and figure out if I was making a certain mistake often, and could easily organize how I would go about revising the paper. Some of my high school and college professors started doing this for students with print disabilities and it has been tremendously helpful.
Incorporate the commenting tool
I love the commenting tool in Microsoft Word, and used it often during my project management internship at a major tech company. Simply click on a word or the end of a line and add a comment with the commenting tool to provide specific feedback about a sentence or other important information. I typically magnify comments with the screen magnification tool in Windows as it is not accessible for screen reader users.
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Number different lines and use a key
My first college English professor would number each of my sentences with large numbers in the spacing between lines, and then write detailed feedback about each sentence or section of sentences on a different page. They also would add names to paragraphs or pages and give feedback on each section that way. I could easily tell if the tomato paragraph needed to be reworked to match the rest of the paper or if I spelled a technical term wrong in sentence 33.
Highlight different areas
Different from the numbering method, another writing professor would use different colored highlighters to highlight sentences or words that needed to be proofread again. Each color would then be drawn on the bottom of the page with additional feedback. This method was not overly helpful when I had turned in an assignment on colored paper, as I had trouble seeing some of the highlighter colors on the paper I had used. The colors had no symbolic meaning unlike my teacher who color-coded feedback, it was simply for organization.
Talk it out
I love talking out my writing with people and can easily get a lot of constructive feedback if I sit down with my teacher or professor and go over my paper. This also ensures that I understand my feedback correctly and don’t correct something for no reason. Many of my professors have been glad to go over papers during office hours or by phone/email, and this has helped me a lot when submitting projects.
Give very specific feedback if possible
Once upon a time, my professor kept using acronyms to give me corrections on my paper, as well as using acronyms to correct my spelling. As a result, I didn’t understand the feedback, turned in the final draft of my paper, and somehow scored lower than the first draft. Luckily, the professor realized that I had been confused over their feedback and let me redo the paper again, this time stating more specific things that I needed to add to my paper.
While proofreading and editing is not my favorite part of the writing process, I know it is necessary and allows me to develop my skills more as a writer and blogger. I hope these tips to make proofreading feedback accessible for low vision are helpful for others looking to help make it easier to revise their writing!