Thursday, September 12, 2013


                I had a student this week that was only interested in proofreading and grammar. He was very clear about it, so that is what I went into during the session. The assignment was for a reader response, so there was no set structure that he was told to adhere to. When we first started I was a little leery of how exactly I was going to go about the session, but as we worked through it I was able to settle down. I made the assumption that the severe comma issue was indicative of greater structural problems, like surface cracks revealing deeper issues. In the end he did not need any help on the brick and mortar stuff, although he used commas like he was getting paid for each one. His point was really clear and his paragraph structure worked really well. My initial incredulous response to his only asking for grammar help was a mistake on my part.
                I think this is similar to the kind of writer that I am. I excel in the big picture stuff and get caught in the nuts and bolts. I have a sense for where to put commas in papers(sometimes a very wrong sense), so I did not want to lead him astray. During that session I had to pull out the purple sheet for my sake as much as his. I usually know the type of clause I use as I am writing, but looking at other people’s papers throws me off. Reading them aloud helps, but I still trip up a bit when the writer’s sensibility is not my own. In many cases it is not that I think they are wrong, but that I think I am. Basically all of these insecurities bounce around my thoughts for a moment, but I get over it and continue with what I am doing.
                I am still trying to mentally prepare for the tutee that wants purely grammar help but hands over a paper that is a structural mess. I imagine that I would discuss it and try to help clear it up, but dread the person that refuses any suggestions. I have known people in my academic career that became furious at the suggestion that their thesis or argument could use a little work, so it is a line that I will walk carefully. It would be a disservice to ignore the elephant in the room, but an even greater problem to force the tutee to look at it if they don’t want to.
Gary Lindeburg


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