Americans are infatuated with efficiency. Everything from our roads to our restaurants are designed with the utmost sense of urgency in mind. This sense of immediacy comes through in our writing, as well. We feel that our essays should be clear and concise. We should introduce our subject, discuss key, relevant details, and then summarize our ideas in a conclusion. Although we feel that this is the most logical and efficient way of writing, other cultures see essays differently, mainly because they don’t think the same way Americans do. In my own experience, Arab culture is much more relaxed, with an ‘Insha’Allah’ attitude (the idea that if it is God’s will for something to be done, it will be done in time). This kind of worldview can obviously lead to writing that seems very unstructured to Americans. Asian culture also uses a more indirect way of writing, often throwing in new ideas in the middle of a topic. This can be the source of a lot of frustration to foreign students, because to them, their writing is normal, but American professors see it as having severe structural problems. So how do we tutors help these students and their writing? The best answer for this is to simply explain to the writer how different cultures have different writing styles. Make sure the student understands that their way of writing isn’t necessarily inferior or wrong, it is just different from how we write in America. Ensure the writer has a good idea of what an ‘American’ essay will look like, and work with them to incorporate the positives with their natural writing style with what works with ours. The saying goes that ‘knowing is half the battle’, and the sooner International students understand that they are expected to write in a certain way, and that their troubles as an English writer are the result of a culture gap and not their actual ability to write, the better.

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