No matter how good you are today as a writer, you once sucked at some level.

And, nonetheless, someone likely told you a story or essay was OK, encouraging you to improve.

That’s our jobs as editors and – even more so – as teachers.

Accentuate the positive, denote the negative and offer advice for improvement.

Here are some comments I just sent to a student who just published his first sports story.

First, congrats on having your first story published. Covering games seems easy until one actually has to do it. You captured most of the most significant aspects of the game. Please, review your draft of the story against the one published. Even more experienced writers get edited so do not despair any of the changes. This is how one continues to improve. This first attempt was better than many I receive in class or from newer writers.

Let’s instead focus on both the positives (you wrote and submitted a story on deadline that was published!) and on ways to improve these stories going forward.

INCLUDE COMMENT FROM PLAYERS AND COACHES: Did you speak with the coach or any players? That is an essential part of coverage. I can include any video or quotes that you gathered from interviews. If you did not do so, please make sure to speak with them tomorrow. You can introduce yourself as a reporter for Coles County Sports and say you’d like to ask them a few questions about the game. You can take part or all of what they tell you to include in the story. 

INCLUDES THE SCORE IN THE OPENING SENTENCE OR TWO: Do not wait until the end to offer the score. 

DESCRIBE SOME PLAYS IN MORE DETAIL: We had discussed the unusual play where the catcher incorrectly rolled the ball to the mound that allowed a run to score. I inserted that play and description.

There is far more good than in error with this story. Keep up the good work and attitude and address the points above. I’m certain that these stories will continue to improve each time you write. Well done.