STRATEGIES AND PRINCIPLES
Students often aren't sure which instructor marks or comments on their writing are of major importance, and which are less imperative. When teachers mark everything, students sometimes give up interpreting the marks out of confusion or discouragement.
A truism of education is that it is most effective for teachers to evaluate only what they have taught. If you discussed argument in class, this means you could write a note about each student's argument and leave line-level issues for another time. Focused, minimal marking not only allows you to be specific in your feedback, but also reinforces the writing lessons you taught.
Writing is a Conversation
Most students eventually figure out what "awk" or "?" mean when written in the margin of their paper, but they are truly hungry for your thoughts on the overall content of what they wrote. A note from you letting the student know you understood what they wrote and that you have thoughts in return reinforces the concept of audience for student writers, and helps them feel a part of your course and area of study.
Communicating What Works
Students often experience receiving notes from instructors only on what is weak in their writing. But the best writers develop in large part because they have a sense of what they have done well, or what is working. Marking the strong or successful aspects of a student's writing provides a student with valuable information and increases their desire to take on further writing challenges.