Do parents or English teachers make good editors and mentors?
Before we explain that, you need to understand the difference between proofreading and editing. Editing is the process of going from a rough draft to a finished essay; it deals with what you’re saying, how you say it and how you organize it. Proofreading is checking for final errors, and happens at the end of the process. You should absolutely have someone help with both stages.
It’s also important to know what makes a good editor:
- A good editor is objective, and will help you clarify your story and message in your own mind, and on paper.
- A good editor knows how to help you write in your own voice, so when you read your essay it sounds like you, not like someone else.
- A good editor understands that there are many kinds of writing, and that a college essay is not an academic paper.
- A good editor will help you think about your readers, and will help you structure and write your essay so that it’s something people want to read.
- A good editor probably is a good writer, and probably has experience in helping people communicate through writing.
- Most importantly, a good editor will help you make this *your* essay. Good editors don’t tell you what to say or how to say it. They don’t write phrases or sentences for you and they don’t try to push you to write in a voice that isn’t yours.
If one of your parents has these skills, and you have the kind of relationship where you can work together like that, then go for it. Otherwise, find someone who will be an effective editor for you.
An English teacher may do a great job for you, but remember that this is not their specialty. We’ve seen English teachers turn great first drafts into cold and calculated academic essays. Students have shown us comments by English teachers that would have been appropriate at the final proofreading stage, but were unhelpful in the editing stage. Teachers have a lot of students, and can’t always take the time needed to do a good editing job.
Here’s one way your parents and others can help, even if they aren’t editors: Read your essay out loud to them. Ask them if it sounds like you. Ask them what they remember. Ask them what could make your story stronger, more authentic, or more effective. Your editor will be able to help you improve your essay with that feedback.