#tutorproblems: That Guilty Feeling that Comes with Editing

By January 30, 2013Writing about Writing

Here at the UCWbL we a pretty straight forward philosophy: everyone who writes is a writer, all writers can improve through revision, but these theories do not transfer into other writing based jobs, namely editing (in the publishing sense of the word).

RedactedTextIt can be tricky to differentiate, when you go to work at the writing center, then go home and read manuscripts. Even though there are similarities between the jobs, including things you can borrow from one and apply to the other,  the jobs are still separate, because there are major differences that you don’t want to cross over. We at the writing center tend to resent it when a student says they want us to edit their work. Our gut reaction is to say “That’s not what we do here” and we never tell a writer that something they wrote just isn’t good enough. Worth is never truly considered, just improvements. Editing is different; it’s a different mindset. When you read a manuscript, you don’t look for how to improve the piece. You read to determine if it’s worth publishing or not. Then, and only then, do you discuss ways to improve it for publication. It’s worth comes first, followed by improvements.

One thing does carry over though, between jobs, and that’s what you look for within the piece of writing. You keep an eye out for the same things: is it thorough? is it well written? what about the grammar? is it engaging? does it have a beginning, middle and end? is it well organized? It is only what you do with that information that changes. But, since I have been a tutor longer, since that is what I was doing when I was trained to look for those things, sometimes I feel guilty for not liking a piece of writing, for not thinking it’s worth publishing. How can I be a writing center tutor, when I’m also learning how to be an editor?

The answer is actually rather simple. Editing and tutoring aren’t the same thing. You aren’t dealing with the same kind of writing. As a tutor, writers are coming to you asking for help, so it isn’t your job to judge their writing. When reading as an editor, you’re reading something already determined by the author as publishable, they aren’t asking for your adivce. They are two different things, two different contexts, and as long as my editing mindset doesn’t carry over into tutoring appointments, I don’t cross a line.