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Adjust Conventions Expectations
March 5, 2019
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.
Take time to show students examples of formal and less formal conventions. Reveal the same information written in varying levels of formality. Discuss different purposes, audiences, and genres when each would be more appropriate.
- I’ll be late.
- I will be tardy.
Article originally posted February 7, 2017 and updated in March 2019.