Why We Don't Proofread Grammar by Kayla Dean

Post date: Sep 28, 2017 12:00:46 AM

The biggest myth behind writing that I have to debunk on a daily (hourly?) basis is that grammar is the only aspect of writing that ever needs to be improved. Maybe it’s because people are so sure that they learned everything they needed in secondary school. But writing has many moving parts, and that makes it challenging. Let me take a detour to show you what I mean. Most of the writers I run into in the Writing Center fall into two types: the overconfident and the pessimists. The first group is assured that whatever they wrote in that first draft is final. To this writer, peer review or tutoring is an exercise in futility. They’re sticking to their story, and the only possible change to the paper will be the placement of a comma. Then there’s the other camp, filled with writers who don’t think they’re writers, who believe anything they write is the worst thing a consultant’s eyes have ever beheld. They are so embarrassed, in fact, that they don’t believe any of their revisions are even worth considering.

While pessimists don’t stand behind a word that they write, an overconfident writer attempts to take control of the consultation by asking for a grammar check. The problem? We don’t offer this service, and here’s why:

  • You don’t learn if we just markup your paper.
  • You won’t be able to edit your own work on the job.
  • You’re closing off avenues and opportunities to improve your writing and potentially your grade.
  • It’s not what consultants do.

We want you to be a self-sufficient writer, and it’s a disservice if we only proofread your paper. Luckily, there’s another way besides overconfidence or pessimism. When you come to the Writing Center, show up with an open mind. These are our favorite consultations. We love working with students who genuinely want to improve their thesis statements, organization, flow, and structure.

If you are looking for proofreading, download Grammarly. It’s a Chrome plugin that also works with Microsoft Word. The software is more accurate than a generic spell checker, and it catches those errors while also explaining them. That’s the key word: explanation. We want you to understand the reasoning, but not at the expense of developing writing skills.

Let’s circle back to the the myth that grammar is what makes up good writing. Quite simply, it’s not true because writing at its core is about conveying ideas. Yes, we want to do that beautifully and error-free, but in-depth, critical thinking is where that eloquence begins. We aren’t born good writers, but thinking deeply and analytically about subjects is the first step to learning how to translate ideas to paper. You can’t take that journey if you’re only concerned with punctuation.

If you are in the business to improve your grammar:

  • Review our handouts.
  • Come prepared with a specific question.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • Hire a proofreader.
  • Google it.

Next time you’re at the Writing Center, don’t treat your consultant like a spell checker. We’re happy to work with you, but you have to show up with an open mind. After all, the path towards great writing starts with reading, thinking, and the willingness to revise.