How To Handle Rhetorical Punctuation Issues?

As I've been tutoring for the past year, I keep coming across an issue that I haven't heard talked about a whole lot--I'd really appreciate feedback on how everyone handles this situation, and (if it applies) what your thoughts are on how it might be handled better. Pointers to any literature on the subject would be awesome too.

The enclosed link is just an article from The Wall Street Journal that I thought was interesting--it got me thinking again about the question I've been wanting to pose to other tutors since this summer. Love to hear what your perspective is on the article too, but let me get on with my question.

Our writing center sees students from every major and I tutor every undergrad class level. The more I tutor, the more I notice that grammar and punctuation are very rhetorical: in many ways professors' perspectives of  "what is correct" are all different--many times dependent upon their field. For instance, Engineering professors (in my experience) don't like their students to use semicolons--which is indicative of their desire for shorter, more direct sentences. English professors, on the other hand, get excited about long sentences and semicolon use, provided the writer has control of the thing.

Granted, my experience is limited, but I feel like this discrepancy is largely unaccounted for, and not addressed in training. I understand that it goes back to a fundamental understandings of what writing is, and to even address the issue would require much more than a simple training, but it seems like a challenge worth some thought.

What do you think? Have you encountered this situation in your tutoring experience? If so, how does your writing center handle it?


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