Grammar and Ethos

By April 21, 2015Peer Writing Tutoring

I was looking to know more about grammar, but I think I ended up building my ethos.

Over this last summer, I spent some time going through a copy of Grammar For Dummies that I found at my local branch of the Chicago public library system. I sought out the book because of the experiences I had working on grammar in tutorials during the preceding quarters.

I had a number of appointments in which the writer wanted to focus, sometimes exclusively, on grammar. In some of those appointments, I felt that there were more global, important concerns, like weaving evidence into their paragraphs or sequencing their points in such a way as to make their argument more accessible. Some writers were receptive to my suggestions of focusing on these more global concerns, while others insisted on grammar. In those instances of insistence, we focused on grammar, and plenty of valuable work was still done in our time together.

In seeking out information about grammar, I wanted to be better equipped to address writers’ grammar-based concerns and direct them to grammar resources, which did happen. However, there was an additional effect that I wasn’t anticipating: I developed ethos.

I found that in those instances in which I saw global concerns, but writers insisted on focusing on grammar, by explaining my understanding of the grammar convention at hand along with my typical suggestion of focusing on the global, writers were more receptive to my suggestions. I think, by demonstrating some understanding of grammar conventions, writers felt reassured that I was making a suggestion based on equal understanding of both the local and global elements of their writing.

This is something I plan on continuing to pay attention to and reflect on in my appointments, and I’m excited to see what more I learn!

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Maggie C. says:

    Hi Ted,

    I related to this blog post so much. Over time, I realized that I didn’t know as much about grammar as I thought and students’ questions often stumped me or left me thinking that I know that something is right because it sounds right. And thus began my search for grammar knowledge. I found that after I read up on some rules and shared them in tutorials, I felt that writers saw more ethos. It’s crazy that something as simple as grammar could influence how writers see tutors.

    -Maggie C.