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Method & Didactics School year 5-13

Thorsten Henke (editorially edited by Gabriela Holzmann)

Correction system

Correction marks and understandable marginal comments in exams

Correcting student texts requires a transparent and as reliable as possible correction system that includes error categories, types of errors and correction symbols. Even experienced teachers are sometimes unsure when explaining or justifying their corrections to students or their parents. Read here which correction marks and marginal comments are helpful and meet the requirements of a transparent assessment.

The actual correction consists of reading the student text or the exam and identifying and explaining any errors and deficiencies that can be found. Traditionally, certain correction symbols are used for this, such as "R.“Used for misspellings. Many teachers supplement these with appropriate comments in the margin.

What are the requirements for correction marks in Germany?

There are no uniform correction symbols for Germany. Some federal states have issued requirements for the Abitur in order to prevent arbitrariness and to create a certain standard. Others are reluctant to make recommendations, so that different signs and categorizations of errors are also used within individual federal states.

Basically, it is not necessarily a disadvantage if the authorities give teachers more freedom here. This gives you more didactic and technical leeway in making corrections. On the other hand, inexperienced colleagues are naturally looking for a system that they can use for orientation.

What country-specific differences are there with the correction characters?

Traditionally, other correction symbols are used in schools, but without standardization. For the lower secondary level there are usually no regulations at all. For the Abitur, however, some federal states, for example Baden-Württemberg, have published very narrowly defined regulations, which, however, can differ from country to country.

An example of slight differences between the federal states in the Abitur requirements is the abbreviation for grammatical errors:

  • In North Rhine-Westphalia "G“,
  • in Niedersachsen "Size" and
  • in Saxony "GR“.

There are larger differences in semantics and style: Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, make a distinction between word errors ("W.") And typographical errors ("A.“), Where word errors relate to a single word, and misspellings relate to several words. While Lower Saxony specifies both types of error as equivalent, in North Rhine-Westphalia the expression error is subordinated to the word error as a specification. In Baden-Württemberg, on the other hand, there is the correction symbol "W."For" repetition ". (...) Only a few of the lists with correction marks given for the Abitur are convincingly systematized. For example, Schleswig-Holstein's model, which is quite simply structured, is an exception.

Trainees, young professionals and career changers can orientate themselves on this

If you are new to a school, find out whether there are subject-specific or internal regulations for corrections. Despite the obligation to adhere to certain guidelines, you as a teacher usually have a lot of didactic leeway. The specifications are often much more flexible than they appear at first glance. Above all, it is important that you proceed uniformly when making your corrections and that you make sure that your decisions can be substantiated in a technical and didactic manner.

Which and how many correction characters should be used?

Generally it is Not It makes sense to use a list of as many correction characters as possible that follow an alphabetical or possibly even no comprehensible order. For didactic and practical reasons, a limited number of correction symbols should be used, to which certain error categories can be clearly assigned. This is the only way to provide understandable feedback to the students, because only a few of them are even interested in the precise naming of errors, especially since too strong differentiation with too many abbreviations can quickly become overwhelming. An orderly and limited system of correction characters (approx. 6 - 9 correction characters) also makes it easier for teachers to correct a text work immensely.

categoryCorrection marksAlternatives
contentI.fa, FA (technical error, technical discussion), Sf, SF (Factual error), Sat (factual error)
spelling, orthographyR.Rs
punctuationZSz (Punctuation marks)
grammarGSize, GR
T (Tense)
ExpressionA.W. (Word error), WW (Choice of words), L. (Lexicons)
S., St. (Style flaw)
M. (Modality)

In most cases, these few characters are sufficient. They guarantee a feedback to the requirements as well as a clear delimitation of the individual error categories. In the interests of consistency, it also makes sense to use only one letter as an abbreviation for all correction characters.

More or less correction marks - what is helpful for feedback to the students?

A more differentiated list of correction symbols would only make the correction more confusing for everyone involved. This important principle of reducing and systematizing correction symbols and abbreviations has been mostly neglected in the didactic literature up to now. There is even the opposite suggestion of numbering errors in a student text and identifying them using a list with 52 breakdowns. Such a proposal contradicts the clarity and simple systematisation and does not allow adequate feedback: Neither teachers nor pupils will be able to memorize such a large number of assignments and differentiations or look them up again and again, especially not if very different correction systems are used in a school consist.

Are adjustments to the correction marks necessary according to the Abitur requirements of the federal states?

You can decide for yourself which of the suggested correction symbols to use. The best thing to do is to create your own list that you align with the Abitur requirements of your state. If you teach in Baden-Württemberg, simply replace the "G" by "Size". If you come from Lower Saxony, differentiate between "W."For lexical errors that affect only one word, and"A.“For all other lexical and stylistic mistakes. Basically, these adjustments keep the reduced system relatively well preserved.

What can be useful additions to correction signs?

Despite the reduced number of correction marks, many teachers still find it useful to clarify some errors. In order to name errors more precisely, you should - instead of further independent correction symbols - use formulated and some abbreviated specifications. Put them in brackets after the respective correction symbol, for example like this:

I (too general)

This approach solves the conflict of interest between the simplification and the exact naming, because it still guarantees clarity and the assignment to a certain requirement category.

The following overviews provide such details for the individual error categories Content, grammar, expression and Formalities on:

Correction marks: errors in content

Content error: incorrect, inaccurate, incomplete presentation and interpretation, improper abbreviation, violation of logic or coherence
Fa, FA, Sf, SF, Satechnical error, factual error, factual error
Possible precisions: 
(f) or (X)wrong in content
(~) or (ug)imprecise content, superficial, too general, in need of explanation, incomplete, incomplete
(≠ Rel) or (≠ Open)irrelevant in terms of content, trivial, deviating from the task at hand
(?) or (uk), (uv)content unclear, incomprehensible, misleading
(Wh) or (Rep)content repetition
(Zh) or (Zsh)unclear / incorrect contextual context
(Bz) or (Bez)unclear / incorrect content reference
(Log) or (D), (Df)Logical error, mistake in reasoning, wrong conclusion, contradiction in terms of content, tautology
Setting a paragraph for reasons of content
Content-wise paragraph that does not make sense
I / ABorderline case: probably a content error, but it can also be an error of expression

Correction marks: grammatical errors

grammarGGrammatical error: wrong inflection, wrong sentence structure
Gr, GR,
Sb, Sy
Grammatical errors
Sentence structure / syntax error
Possible precisions: 
(Flx)wrong inflection (word ending for case, comparison, mode, number, person, tense etc.)
(Sb) or (Sy)Wrong sentence structure: incomplete sentence, wrong word order, missing sentence boundary
(–)Deletion of syntactically superfluous
(Γ) or (√)Omission: addition of missing syntax
G → IError causality: grammatical errors result in content errors

Correction marks: typographical errors


A.Misspellings: inappropriate words and phrases, stylistically inappropriate
W, WW, L
S, St
Vocabulary errors, wrong choice of words, lexical errors
stylistic error
Modality error
Possible precisions: 
(W) or (L)wrong choice of words, lexical error
(Koll)wrong collocation
(Id)wrong idiom
(S) or (St)Inappropriate / inappropriate style
(M)inappropriate modality
(T)Inappropriate / inappropriate tense
(Wh) or (Rep)Repetition of expressions, lack of variability
(FS)technical language not used / incorrectly used
(–)Deletion of semantically superfluous
(Γ) or (√)Completion of semantically missing items
A / IBorderline case: probably an error of expression, but it can also be an error in content
A → IError causality: Expression errors result in content errors

Correction marks: Formal errors

FormalitiesF.formal error
Possible precisions: 
(?) or (ul)illegible
Setting a paragraph for reasons of content
Content-wise paragraph that does not make sense

You can also add any other clarification as required. But while abbreviations save time, don't go over the top. It is better to supplement the relatively frequently used abbreviations shown in the overviews with non-abbreviated specifications. This can of course be any number, for example the following:

too general, correct in its approach, confusing, ambiguous, questionable,
Needs interpretation, too close to the text, gender, number, case, mode

How can success also be highlighted in student texts?

Strictly speaking, correction signs are signs that there is a need for improvement and are used in the event of errors. A sign to emphasize what has been successful is therefore a separate sign that, in the narrower sense, has to be distinguished from correction signs. Such a sign can be the following:

contentcontent-wise particularly applicable / well thought-out / convincing / plausible / creative / original

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Method & Didactics School year 5-13

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