What a Writing Tutor can and can't do for you.

As a writing tutor for both adults and senior high school students, I sometimes get requests or face students with expectations, that I can't meet. If you ask a tutor for this kind of service, you might get refused, for good reason.
First, if you are writing on a highly technical or specialized subject, such as engineering, psychiatry, or biotechnology, and expect a tutor to help you conceive of your paper, its sources, organization, literature review or other content, I may not be able to help you, especially after an hour's meeting. At least I would need time to learn a little about your field. But in fact, this is not what a tutor can do for you. A tutor can give feedback, suggestions, or editing assistance, but the content is your own.
Second, if you are a student, applying to college for example, and want a tutor to help you shape your personal essay  or cover letter to make it sound polished or "unique", you also may not get this kind of help. To represent yourself, you must do your own writing. No one else can be your voice, which you must craft to show who you are. This is what you should have practiced and prepared for before you faced this task.
Finally, a tutor can't save your job situation in the short term if you are having major problems with work-place communications. If you want to give a major presentation next week, meeting a tutor once probably won't help you. Again you need to have practiced this kind of skill before this requirement occurred at work.
So what can a writing tutor do? First, for non-native speakers, a writing tutor can help you with grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure, and voice issues. I can teach you about how native speakers communicate in subtle ways. I can help you write in a more natural English-style voice. But this is a long process; I can't help you overnight.
For native speakers, there is also a process of learning how to consider voice, style, tone, purpose, audience, and context in creating effective messages. You may have heard these a little in school, but applying these ideas in a real situation is different, and takes some practice. Consider these skills as a long-term investment in your skill set, not a quick fix for an immediate situation.


Emily S.

Retired English Teacher for Adults

2500+ hours
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