Last Thursday I had my first-ever appointment at the Writing Studio. After I gave my paper an initial read aloud and addressing all of my concerns, the tutor asked me to reread one of the sentences. Upon doing so, I told her it seemed fine. This time she read the sentence and I was immediately able to hear that it was unnecessarily wordy. All of the extra baggage that the sentence carried was weighing it down and interfering with the reader’s comprehension.
The tutor asked me how to eliminate the problem and I crossed out what I thought were all of the extra words in the sentence. I looked to her for a sign of approval, but instead she said to me, “Is that all you can do?” My eyes instantly shot back to my paper, desperately searching for some other tweak that could be made, but I sat there, dumbfounded.
The tutor, picking up on my cluelessness, then said, “Well, we all have our own writing styles, but you’ll notice in this sentence that there are multiple instances when you use a verb as a noun. It’s called nominalizing.” I reread the sentence again, this time trying to catch myself “nominalizing,” but still wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for. At this point, the tutor said “Right now the sentence reads, ‘I make the necessary changes in the wording of the thesis.’ Notice though how you chose to use ‘changes’ as a noun, instead of the verb, ‘change.’ Same thing goes for ‘wording.’ Keep in mind though that these are just suggestions.”
In many ways, this tutoring session coincides with Brooks’ definition of minimalist tutoring. My tutor was careful not to impose her writing style on me. I was relieved when she prefaced her correction by telling me that I didn’t have to change the sentence exactly the way she said, giving me “full responsibility” (129) of my paper. She also picked out this nominalization as one example of a tendency that comes up a lot while I write, helping me to improve my overall writing, not just this paper. However, I was surprised that she gave me specific options for ways to change the sentence. I felt like she could have explained nominalizations using an example entirely different from the sentence in my paper to ultimately find the perfect balance between directive/nondirective tutoring.