[Musings/Persona] why I hate peer editing.

I recently visited a writing tutor. Since it was a legitimate writing tutor, as in this student writes really well and so thus was honored as a writing tutor, I was thinking, “Yay! Somebody can finally honestly and roughly critique my paper!” Since I am better than most peers at writing, when I do peer editing, the others usually tell me, “I loved your paper. It was perfect!” Then when I go back and read it, or have a professor read it, we immediately see huge problems and countless spots to revise. Therefore, in meeting this tutor, I was excited to finally break the simpering and intimidated-by-large-words mold of past peer editors.


The beginning of my paper as I wrote it on Google Docs


That didn’t happen. Though the tutor did have a few well placed comments, such as pointing out where I need to clarify things, especially as an outsider looking in, the paper felt solid to her, and there wasn’t anything major to change. She might as well said, “I loved your paper. It was perfect!”

I know in my gut there are structural and argumentative problems with my paper. After all, by the sixth page (read, seventh hour of writing), I was impatient and dying of boredom, both of which do not bode well for a coherent argument. Though I am a better essay writer than most, as Dumbledore said, that just means my mistakes are correspondingly larger. I have problems with wordiness and using esoteric analysis. I have battles with topic sentences—I hate using them because they give everything away. It is very frustrating, time and time again, to encounter peers who cannot pick up on this and give a thorough critique and well-thought-out advice. I cannot always ask my professors to read over my essays.

I have only met one peer that can edit my papers critically and give valuable feedback: my best friend, but sadly, she is six hours away. You’d think a top-notch liberal arts college would attract strong writers, but this is not the case. I took the required writing course last semester, and most of the time, I’d be helping them more than they helped me. In addition, my professor mentioned in passing she would recommend me to be a writing tutor. Later, I actually ended up helping one of my friends write her end-of-term sociology paper (which she got an A on—funnily enough, the other time I helped someone write a paper was in high school, the girl got an A as well, full points from a teacher who is notoriously hard).

Nonetheless, I will continue to visit writing tutors, and hopefully I will be able to find a peer who has that high intellectual notch. Until then.


4 thoughts on “[Musings/Persona] why I hate peer editing.

  1. Good morning!!!

    As a peer tutor in writing, I’ll be the first to admit that I have come across my fair share of “better writers”–meaning writers better than me! In fact, when I first began peer tutoring in my college’s Writing Center as an Undergrad, I was consulting Grad students (an intimidating venture). As a result, I learned quickly that I needed to focus on the writing-at-hand and not on the tutee (i.e. the student). Unfortunately, this realization often takes time for many student tutors.

    My advice to you–should you chose to accept it–is to try working with as many different tutors as possible; hopefully, you will find someone that works well with you. Try to keep in mind that peer tutoring is a conversation, and just like in life outside of a Writing Center, not all conversations will flow easily (like with your best friend)–meaning that not all peer consultants are 100% compatible to all tutees. Nevertheless, there is a good chance that you will find a tutor that embraces your specific conversational qualities and helps you to thrive in writing; you just have to keep an open mind and remember that every peer tutor is there to help you and has something valuable to offer.

    All-in-all, take into consideration that peer tutoring conversations are mean to be two-way; in other words, the conversation will only flourish if you also put effort into it. You can be
    sitting across the table from a tutor that can truly guide you, but if you don’t interact accordingly, the session will flop. At the end of the day, a session is in the hands of the tutee–i.e. YOU–so stay positive!

    Oh, on a final note, you mentioned in your post that you battle with topic sentences. On my blog, you will find a structure pyramid that could possibly help you to look at topic sentences in a new way…

    Best of luck in writing,
    – ProJoe

    • Hmm.. it’s not that I have a problem with the actual structuring and formation of topic sentences, but rather, I highly dislike using them, because they essentially give the conclusion of the paragraph away. What I usually do now is just start with a general idea so you know what the topic of the paragraph about, but I don’t use the ‘mini-thesis’ approach you talked about in your blog anymore (barring some exceptions).

      Well.. you said, it’s a two way conversation, which contradicts what you said about “a session is in the hands of the tutee.” I intend to have a conversation about my writing; I always come with prepared questions, but the tutor must be prepared as well to reflect upon them! However, as you also implied, it’s not my fault or her fault at all, because our intentions/understandings may not match.

      Thank you for your well-thought out response!


  2. A rather late response to this post, but here I go…

    To be fair, if I were a peer tutor, I would be hesitant to suggest drastic changes to your paper unless I were familiar with, or had studied, the subject at hand. I can make general suggestions on word choice, maybe on paragraph flow, and definitely typos/grammar mistakes, but I would not be able to say: this argument sucks, this one is better, use that. Or: this section is great, but you’re not considering this particular angle, and if you did, that would make your paper so much stronger. I’m not saying the peer tutoring situation is great – I know I’ve had my share of frustrations – not directly, but through a proxy (ie, a friend who went to a writing center for help and came back with almost nothing changed) – but that’s the limitation on asking someone in (very probably) another field to critique an in-depth analysis on a very specific event. My suggestion is to ask TA’s, but even they don’t do that great a job. Heck, some professors don’t do a good job.

    So in the end? No real answer. Keep on chugging; that’s college life. :P

    • yes.. you do make relevant points.. yet at the same time, I like going to people who have no idea what the topic is, and if it’s clear to them even without a thorough background, I’ve done well (because as you can probably tell, I’m over-verbose). I tend to think that all arguments, no matter how much you know or don’t know, can be empirically quantified as logically true or logically false, which is usually what I’m looking for, is there a hole in my logic? Am I just over-generalizing? Do I not offer any evidence of support? I know my facts are correct.. but are they presented in a correct fashion? … (this is Michelle the objectivist crawling out from under the rock)

      I go to an all undergraduate institution, so there are no TAs! anyhow, thanks for the advice :)


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