On Writing Tutors

Just yesterday someone asked me to look over an analysis paper written for an English class AFTER it was turned in. So I did. And I was surprised to find out that this person had a writing tutor.¬†And this wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked to do this for someone.

I have to be honest. When I was in college I wrote somewhere between 30-40 papers. Maybe 20-25 percent of those were English analysis papers and the rest were CJ papers. But the topics never mattered, not really. I always knew my worst paper would never score any lower than a high B. This has nothing to do with cockiness or even confidence, it’s simple fact. I wrote more than 90 percent of all of my papers in college between midnight and eight in the morning of the day they were due. Why did I do this? Because it worked for me.

Anyway, the point I’m making is that I know how to write great college papers like I know the back of my hand. It’s just something that was easy for me as it most likely was easy for you. So when someone asks me to read over something I don’t play nice. I give it to them straight. Because what’s the point of being asked for my opinion if I’m going to pretend that it’s something it isn’t? Turns out almost everything I told this person had already been said by the professor.

But it got me thinking about the writing tutor who has repeatedly said she disagrees, and that the paper is excellent. I don’t particularly care what another person says about it because I read it with my own eyes and reached my own conclusions.

So I put myself in the shoes of a writing tutor. See, writing isn’t the same as math or some other subject in which there is a very clear right and wrong answer. One person can reach the exact same conclusion via a completely different route from another person. And that’s okay. And I realized that my philosophy as a tutor would likely be very different from just about anyone else’s. As a tutor, I’d want to be involved with the student as early on in the essay writing process as possible. And time permitting, I’d do the assignment myself. Perhaps without the student having knowledge of this. Because then I’d be in their shoes with a real perspective as opposed to someone who is simply looking at the paper.

But my question really comes down to how much should the tutor help? Let’s say the paper is gone over once with the student and corrections suggested. How many more times should this be done, if any, before the paper becomes the work of the tutor rather than the work of the student? I don’t necessarily have the answer to that, but I do think a tutor has a responsibility to the student to be honest. Be critical. Be reasonable. Don’t give the student ridiculous expectations that can’t be reached. If you work with a student who is really struggling and you’ve reached the point at which the paper is as good as it’s going to be as written by the student, then say that. But don’t give them the idea that it’s better than it is. Because you’re really not helping at that point.

I have no experience with writing tutors, do you?


On this day in 2014 I published Books You MUST Read.