A paper with wonderful content may actually be a really bad paper. So many college students are taught to present a well supported argument, and these well supported arguments are considered to be all that matters in an A grade paper. But what happens when a student, a student with profound thoughts and interesting points, has difficulty presenting his or her ideas clearly and concisely?
As a peer writing consultant, I have often encountered students who could be described as deep thinkers who care about their writing, but their sentences are just too confusing to fully understand their argument. To the writing tutor it seems like a simple argument to solve; simply identify the subject and predicate of each sentence and eliminate all unnecessary words and phrases. However, is it really just that easy? It is easy to say it should happen that way, but I have found that intelligent students often care a lot about their writing, and therefore spend a lot of time on every sentence before they bring their paper in to the writing lab. Then, when we are working on revisions, it is impossible for the student to change what they have already written because they spent so much time on each individual sentence. When students are having a hard time revising their own papers what is the tutor to do? One should not be so direct as to rephrase each sentence for the student.
Joseph M Williams, author of Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace, says that to develop clear and concise writing one must move outside of their writing and understand the deeper meaning that isn’t tied down to the exact words on the page (Williams 34). So what is the writing tutor to do to help students transcend out of the words on the page and write clearly, giving their well planned arguments the explanation they deserve.
Resources: Williams, Joseph M., and Gregory G. Colomb. Style Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Boston: Longman, 2010. Print.
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