What Does a Writing Coach Do?
What’s the difference between hiring a writing coach and hiring a writer or editor? There’s a big difference!
Writers write original pieces, as I do, for higher education and business clients. Editors make changes — big and small — to a writer’s text to make it better, often without consulting them. My name usually doesn’t appear on these pieces, because the words and the voice are the organization’s, not mine.
As in sports, writing coaches bring out the best performances their students can give.
When coaching or tutoring, I teach students the principles of good writing. I set up practice exercises like brainstorming or grammar drills. I review the student’s writing and ask leading questions. I suggest improvements, like changing the opening or the ending, using a metaphor to express an idea, adding examples, or a motif. As in sports, the final results depend on the student’s ability, willingness to learn and how much time they put into the project.
Authenticity is Essential
Applying to college feels like a high-stakes game. Parents and students want application essays to be as good as they could possibly be — perhaps even to a professional level. But for anyone other than the student to write or edit their college essay would be wrong — and never makes it better! That’s because an essay that’s written or edited by someone else will be quite different from the student’s authentic voice and story. The whole point of the essay is for students to introduce themselves — to show who they are, in their own voice. Parents, would you ask your child’s tennis coach to step onto the court and play for them to help them win a match? Of course not.
Students actually don’t want anyone to do this for them. I know this is true because I ask! At the end of each college application season, and at the end of every contest writing workshop series, I survey students and parents to evaluate my teaching and the service I provided. The survey is anonymous, but they can identify themselves to me if they wish. Here’s what some of them said.
“Ms. Ann is great at pointing out ideas and directions to where the essay needs to go without taking over the creative and writing process herself.”
High-achieving Hong Kong 2021 high school graduate and English-language learner now studying business at the University of Southern California
“[My son] worked really hard on his admission essays and they looked (to me) like a mature version of himself. Your guidance has brought that on. It seems his writing in general has improved … I don’t think this could have happened without your coaching.”
Parent of a 2022 California high school graduate bound for Colorado State University