What are your tutors' methods for improving writing skills?

When a student comes to one of the tutors whom we represent ("our tutors") for help with skills, of course the tutor wants him/her to get good grades on assignments, but the primary goal is to help the student to become more capable of finding problems in the writing and progress through effective revisions. That is, the tutor wants to help the student to reach the point where tutoring is not needed anymore.

Our tutor will point out that an essay needs more research and information, or help to understand the important distinctions between research and plagiarism, but we can't do the research itself. The tutor will 'll point out that an essay has organizational problems and we might even suggest ways to reorganize it, but we won't do the reorganizing. The tutor will point out wording that seems awkward or confusing, and try to explain why it seems that way, but the tutor won't rewrite the awkward sentences.

Above all, the tutor won't fix every spelling, punctuation, grammar, or usage error in the paper. The student must retain authorship. If the student takes the tutor's advice about reorganizing, he/she still must make the specific decisions about how to reorganize. If the paper contains a punctuation error, there's really no decision to make. It should be fixed. But if the tutor fixes it, all the tutor has taught the student is, “I don't need to learn the rules of punctuation, because my tutor will take care of all that sort of thing.”

On the other hand, the tutor is not simply going to ignore problems in punctuation, grammar, etc., as such errors will lower grades and, with respect to the SAT’s and college application essays, may limit college options. Rather, the tutor will look for patterns in the errors: the most frequent, the most serious and situations which produce those errors (for instance, work done hastily and/or late at night). We'll then point out those patterns, so the student learns what to look for. The tutor will probably show him/her some examples of the most frequent or most serious errors, explain them, correct them, and perhaps give the student an Internet resource explaining the rules governing them. Then, the tutor will encourage the student to find and correct any remaining occurrences of those errors. In the long run, this should help the student to become a better writer far more than if the tutor simply corrected every comma omission, subject-verb agreement inconsistency, and so forth. For this reason, our tutor will probably ask the student's parents not to correct their errors for them, especially those resulting from hasty, last-minute work.

Our tutor will usually begin with the bigger problems. If the bigger problems are severe enough, it may not be productive to worry about the smaller ones. It does no good to point out a comma problem if the entire paragraph containing that comma problem needs to be rewritten because of lack of adequate research or lack of organization. If the tutor advises, “You need to rewrite this entire paragraph because it lacks supporting details and contains two run-on sentences,” it would be silly to also suggest fixing the comma error in the fourth sentence of that paragraph.

Our tutors help a great deal with papers, but they don't simply fix everything for their students or function asa last-minute, late-night, paper-tweaking service. Our tutors' services are designed not only to help produce better papers but to produce better writers.

What special materials, texts or software should we purchase for optimum results?

Our tutors recommend that you install an up-to-date version of Microsoft Office if you do not already have this software package. Office for the MAC includes Excel, Word and PowerPoint; office for the PC also includes Access.

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