What exactly does it mean when a teacher writes "Awk" or "awkward" on my paper?

The answer has to do with the difference between "correction" and "revision." Teachers often correct simple mistakes and, if necessary, provide an explanation. At times, however, a sentence is so confusing, illogical, or incorrect that it cannot simply be "fixed." It must be completely rewritten. In such cases, the term awkward is used as a way to tell the student "I cannot simply correct this; you have to revise or rewrite it.

The following sentence illustrates correction.

One of the librarian's are going to show me their method for finding current baseball statistics.

This sentence needs three corrections.
1. The first correction is the writer's use of the possessive "librarian's" when the plural "librarians" is necessary.
2. The second correction is the faulty subject - verb agreement. The verb must agree with the subject "One."
3. The third correction is the faulty pronoun - antecedent agreement. The pronoun "their" does not agree with the subject, "One."

One of the librarians is going to show me his method for finding current baseball statistics.

While this is an extreme example with three different corrections, the sentence remains substantially as the student wrote it.

Now consider the following thesis statement.

Because both of the sides each have their own positions it is not easy to see the way out.

There are no easy fixes or simple corrections for this sentence. There are simply too many loose ends. Are there only two sides? Do both sides have multiple "positions"? Are there actually more than two possible positions? Can the situation be resolved only thought sight? Is no solution possible because there are conflicting opinions? What is the issue?

This sentence would likely be noted as "awkward" or "awkward, revise." One or more of the questions above might be written on the paper as well to guide the student in revising it. In some cases, "see me" or "call me" might also be added.

How might this thesis be revised? Assuming the issue is abortion, the following would be a great improvement.

The issue of legal abortion is far more complex than the oversimplified duality of "pro" or "con" reported in the media.

This revision obviously goes well beyond the scope of the corrections above.

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