Adjust Conventions Expectations
The trait of conventions assesses the level of correctness found in a piece. This includes spelling, capitalization, punctuation, grammar, etc. Anything you can “fix” falls under the conventions writing trait.
However, beyond teaching the tools and the rules, students must learn how to adjust their conventions to fit the writing task and purpose. For example, lower expectations when assessing a first draft and raise the expectations for final drafts. The accuracy of grammar and mechanics fluctuates depending on how long students have to work on the task.
A second factor that impacts convention quality is the writing genre. Different modes and formats have varying levels of formality. For example, abbreviations and symbols (e.g., ur, 2moro, BTW, etc.) are commonplace in text messaging. While this type of writing is not appropriate for most academic settings, it is what readers expect in the texting genre!
More formal writing (e.g., college application essays, state writing prompts, etc.) requires more traditional and standardized convention application. However, less formal writing situations (e.g., taking notes, pre-writes, poems, etc.) allow for more casual grammar and mechanics. Knowing the difference is understanding the power of code switching.
It’s important to recognize that kids are not necessarily using the wrong conventions. Rather, they are often using informal conventions within a formal writing situation. Grammar instruction needs to include not only how to switch the code from formal to informal but also when each is appropriate.
Article originally posted February 7, 2017 and updated in March 2019.