Students learning English show a rapid increase in academic writing skills when using Google Docs as an editing medium. What does this mean for editors?
Global English is one of the newest challenges for editors. With the number of web-users throughout the world at an all-time high, we face the exciting opportunity of interacting with people of all cultures and languages. As momentous as this opportunity is, it also presents a new obstacle for those of us in the business of communication. As editors, our job is to make the writing of others clear and concise, but how do we help non-native English speakers overcome the challenges that they may face when writing in a less familiar language?
In a 2017 study called “Exploring the impact of online peer-editing using Google Docs on EFL learners’ academic writing skills: a mixed methods study,” done by Saman Ebadi and Masoud Rahimi at Razi University in Iran, groups of Iranian students learning English practiced their writing and editing skills in two different environments: one group edited each other’s writing face-to-face, and the other group edited each other’s writing using Google Docs. The researchers used several methods of data collection, including collecting participant ratings and recording interviews about the ease and comfort of editing.
After going through the experiment and analysis process, Ebadi and Rahimi’s results came forth as simple yet extremely useful data for anyone dealing with global English: “Although the learners in the face-to-face classroom…worked in groups of two each time, and edited and gave useful comments on their peers’ academic writing assignments, the learners using Google Docs outperformed in their academic writing skills.” Learners who used Google Docs, despite similarly useful feedback coming to learners in the classroom, had scores that repeatedly came back as higher than those receiving feedback face-to-face. Ebadi and Rahimi attribute this to several factors, including less pressure from teachers and classmates, more emotionally safe environments, and more time to think. The results that came from this simple approach suggest the difference the change in medium can make. With the change in medium comes a change in environment, which can increase the skills of not just EFL students but people around the world.
Knowing the difference that editing online can make when compared to editing face-to-face could mean a world of difference to editors. We can and should look for opportunities to help non-native English speakers write with clarity, and this means using methods that help authors help themselves. Instead of giving our edits in a phone call, video call, or in-person meeting, we can send the edits online, giving the authors the time, space, and comfort needed to truly improve their writing and encourage them to continue. As we look for ways to make the writing environment friendly and comfortable, we can create opportunities for non-native English writers to be successful.
To learn more about how non-native students improve their writing using Google Docs, read the full article:
Ebadi, Saman, and Masoud Rahimi. “Exploring the Impact of Online Peer-Editing Using Google Docs on EFL Learners’ Academic Writing Skills: A Mixed Methods Study.” Computer Assisted Language Learning 30, no. 8 (2017): 787–815. https://doi.org/10.1080/09588221.2017.1363056.
—Scout McMillan, Editing Research
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