Annotate (mark) student assignments in Word

Depending on how you will be providing feedback to students, Microsoft Word is a convenient program to use either to:

  • annotate student assignments
  • complete feedback forms (such as marking guides, rubrics, checklists etc)

You are able to restrict the format of student submission to only Word documents (.doc, .docx and .rtf) using the 'Restrict file types' option in an assignments settings.

An example of an assignment marked in Word is provided below.

This page provides step by step guides on how to:

  • insert text comments
  • use a comment bank
  • use the clipboard
  • use colour highlighting
  • use Autocorrect

Inserting text comments

Text comments are useful for assessing high-level conceptual and procedural knowledge. Comments will appear in a balloon in the document margin and are anchored to a place in the document text.

Use a comment bank

To increase marking efficiency you could prepare common comments for re-use (e.g. a paragraph containing instructions about referencing) in a separate Word file. See some comment bank examples.

  1. Open the assignment and comment documents side by side.
  2. Place your cursor in the assignment where you want to place a comment. In Word 2007/2010 go to Review > New Comment
  3. Select the pre-written comment, hold Ctrl and drag the comment to the Comment bubble, or alternatively type your comments into the Comment bubble.

You will see that your comments are referenced by letter(s) and a number. To change the letters to your initials or name: comment

  1. Go to:
    Word 2007 – Office logo > Options > General > Personalise your copy of MS Office
    Word 2010 – File > Options > General > Personalise your copy of MS Office
  2. Type your name or initials in the Username and/or Initials box. The information you type here is for the current computer and used by all Microsoft Office programs, so any changes you make here will affect all Microsoft programs

Use the Clipboard


You can copy up to 24 items to the Clipboard collection using the standard copy commands (copy/paste or Ctrl C/Ctrl V). 

You can then use the Clipboard like a library of comments and paste comments into documents.

To display the Clipboard

In Word 2007 and 2010 – Home tab – click on the arrow next to Clipboard, underneath the Paste icon.The Clipboard will appear at the side of your Word document.

To paste an entry from the Clipboard

  1. Place your cursor where you want the comment to appear (e.g. in a Comment box)
  2. Click on the dropdown arrow for the entry
  3. Select Paste

To clear a single entry from the Clipboard select the dropdown and select Delete.
Entries will remain in the Clipboard until you exit all Office programs or you delete items or click 'Clear All'.

Delete comments

  1. Right click on the comment you wish to delete.
  2. Select 'Delete Comment'.

Use colour highlighting

  1. The highlight tool is located in the Home tab. Highlight toolbar
  2. Select the text you want to highlight, click on the highlighting tool and select the colour you wish to use or click the highlighter tool and the drag over area to be marked. To deactivate highlighter click the Esc key.
  3. To remove highlighting, selected the highlighted text, click on the highlighting tool and select 'None'.

Add a legend to the assignment document explaining the meaning of each highlight colour. For example:
Spelling – Red
Grammar – Green
Sentence construction - Yellow
Tip: Create an AutoCorrect shortcut for your legend to save even more time.

Add text in another colour

You may want to use another colour for text if you are writing usable feedback at the end of the assignment, to distinguish it from the student's work.

  1. Font (text) colour is controlled by an icon on Home tab. Change text colour toolbar 
  2. Select the text colour you wish to use and start typing. Make sure it is a reader- and print-friendly colour.

Use AutoCorrect (keyboard shortcuts)

To save time, you can use AutoCorrect to set up keyboard shortcuts for your comments.
In Word 2007/2010:

  1. Highlight the text you want to AutoCorrect (eg a comment from your comment bank)
  2. Go to Word options in the Home button (2007) or File tab (2010)
  3. Choose Proofing
  4. Then select AutoCorrect
  5. Your highlighted text will automatically be added to the replace text box. Type in the shortcut you want to use eg marklegend
  6. Click the ADD button
  7. Repeat step 1 to 6 to add more options or type the comments directly into the text box as plain text.
  8. To test the function open a new document and type your shortcut then press Enter or the space bar. The full comment will appear.

An example assignment marked in Word

Assignment in Word

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