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An online writing tutor may do a number of different things depending on the grade level of the student, the focus of the tutoring, and the philosophy behind the instruction. Writers of different ages need to learn a variety of skills, so while some writing tutors might focus on spelling, those who work with older students will likely focus on writing structure and proper punctuation. Online writing tutors can also work with writing that serves different purposes, such as college entrance essays or professional papers. Depending on the underlying philosophy that informs the tutor's work, this may involve proofreading, helping students form outlines, and sometimes even dissecting the logical structure of the essay.
One of the most important things that an online writing tutor does is provide a second look at any writing a student does. This can be particularly helpful for students who have trouble with proofreading and catching errors in their own work. Most writing tutors try to get students to try proofreading on their own, but this can be difficult online. As such, an online writing tutor who works with the same student over a long period of time must often attempt to wean that student off of the proofreading service.
When an online writing tutor works directly for a school, he or she is usually required to provide certain types of services through chat and email, but to refrain from providing specific types of help. This usually means that a tutor can help with the structure of a person's writing, but not with the ideas that are represented by that writing. Many online tutors provide this type of service by marking up documents sent in by students rather than discussing the paper directly. On the other hand, online voice and text chats have made discussing papers and brainstorming ideas easier.
Many types of papers pose difficulties for students that are not directly related to the writing itself. Formal citation styles, for example, are often looked over by tutors. Learning how to properly insert citations can be difficult, and an online writing tutor is often able to correct minor punctuation errors and other problems with citations.
Online writing tutors sometimes help students to completely overhaul papers, suggesting reorganization and improved clarity. By providing prompts, tutors can sometimes turn a mediocre paper into a great one. Sometimes, tutors use their familiarity with a subject to help draw out the student's thoughts on the topic, occasionally through the use of outlines or other tools.
An online writing tutor walks a difficult line, because he or she cannot help students to come up with ideas without being academically dishonest. To avoid this problem, most tutors who work online try to limit their activities to the structure and grammatical correctness of writing. This is itself problematic, because what makes a paper truly great is often the voice and argument of the essay. Writing tutors must often rely on their own sense of academic ethics in order to avoid doing students' homework for them.
If you are a beginner tutor looking for examples on the best way to navigate tutoring sessions, working with another private online writing tutor is a great place to start.