There’s a Word for That: Lingo for the New Peer Writing Tutor

By September 18, 2012Peer Writing Tutoring

Tutors are born problem solvers, but it’s hard to solve a problem when you can’t find a word for it.  How many of these writing tutor-related terms are new to you?

Does it seem like the sentences in a paper sound correct, yet their content amounts to nonsense?  You’re probably staring at a word salad.  Or perhaps a piece of writing lacks the consistency of a salad–in fact, you’d say it’s rather soupy, with unrelated grammatical structures floating around at random.  In that case, your writer is serving up some wicked paragrammatism.

Does a paper seem deliberately confusing or obscure?  Tell the writer to lay off the skotison.  If they take offense, then you can try to make up for it by pointing out all the errors that spell checker missed: a common result of the Cupertino Effect.

Or maybe a paper is peppered with adverbs like “obviously” or “undoubtedly” to emphasize just how obvious and doubtless its point is.  This strategy , known as boosting, is usually not as convincing as it seems.  Ideally, successful rhetoric is reasonably sound, so be a vigilant tutor on the look-out for logical fallacies.

No matter what, it’s crucial that you show your writer that you’re both paying attention and you believe what they have to say is important.  Whether you prefer “Mmm,” “Uh-huh,” or “Okay,” offering a verbal cue, or back-channel signal, is a polite way to remind them that you’re listening.

You’ll know a tutorial is going well when one of two things happens: your back-channel signaling overflows into full-blown cooperative overlap–when two speakers begin talking over one another because of excessive interest.  Or there’s very little talking at all: instead your writer is overwhelmed with hypergraphia–an inexplicable urge to write.

Would your writer sound clearer if they wrapped up the main idea at the end of each paragraph?  Maybe some additional example set off with a hyphen–just like this–or with a colon: voilá, the summative modifier.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • matthewdavidpearson says:

    Dig the post, Mark! I hadn’t heard a lot of these terms and I like the term “Cupertino Effect.” Overall, your post will help me improve my Cupertino with writers.