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Online English Tutoring

Many demolitions are actually renovations.
—Jalaluddin Rumi, poet and mystic (1207-1273)

As Persuasive Pen, I have been helping students with writing for the past eleven years; as an English teacher for forty years, and as an English as a Second Language (ESL) instructor for more than four years. In 2006, as a departing ESL student prepared to return to her home country because of a death in the family, she wrote:

Hello teacher! This is X. I just bought this notepaper last Friday. When I decided to buy this one, that reason was you. Actually I didn’t like a writting. I didn’t have a basic skill of write. So I’m just worry about my grammar mistake but I didn’t worry about that anymore. You always gave us writing work that time, I realized If I had to mistake, don’t be afraid just try to little by little. So I’ll try to writing so hard and little by little! Thanks for teaching us! Probably this letter also has a too much mistake! But I don’t care that. I think who try to do something better than nothing to do. Anyway I just want to say to you “Thank you”

This note runs the gamut of English errors: capitalization, punctuation, spelling, verb tense, sentence fragments, usage (including how and why to use articles and prepositions), and word order.

It needs to be demolished and rebuilt –but not at the cost of the reader’s grateful spirit! Here is a fearful but nonetheless fledgling writer beginning to spread her wings. It is up to me not to clip them but to support and guide them.

“People think that I can teach them style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style. --Matthew Arnold (1898), quoted in David and Hilary Crystal's Words on Words: Quotations on Language and Languages (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000).

To help this student be clear and concise involves first assessing the errors generated from speaking, listening, and pronunciation differences between her native language and English; next developing a tailor-made strategy to help her see how mispronunciation of the spoken word results in misspelling and usage of  the written word; and then introducing exercises and practice to improve pronunciation and writing. Here is an example of how mispronunciation causes misunderstanding.

To the responsibility of helping native-English-speaking (NES) and non-native-English-speaking (NNES) students be better writers I bring the following qualifications:

  • More than twenty years’ experience tutoring both individuals and groups of native-English-speakers (NES) and non-native-English speakers (NNES)
  • More than ten years’ experience helping young and older adults earn a GED, complete credits for their high school diploma, learn to read, spell, and write, and improve study skills to enter college or advance in the workplace.
  • Postgraduate coursework in Technical Editing, Literary Criticism, Developmental Reading, Teaching Reading, Troubled Student, Guidance for the Classroom Teacher, Occupational Education Information, Language Development for Educators, Descriptive Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Historical Linguistics, Research Methods & Bibliography, Phonological Analysis, Grammatical Analysis, Theories of Syntax, Fundamentals in TESOL, Advanced Principles TESOL Reading/Writing, and Advanced Principles TESOL Listening/Speaking
  • Three years study of Latin and of Spanish, two of German, and currently Conversational Arabic

Francis Bacon’s words are quoted on my home page because I believe them! “Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.” What Bacon said five hundred years ago is as true today as it was then: Reading expands our thinking, discussion sharpens it, and writing substantiates it.

We in the twenty-first century must know how to navigate a seemingly impenetrable net of information, infotainment, half-truths, and outright lies without being ensnared in it. How do we know what we know and what we don’t?

We can test ourselves about what we know and understand in three ways: 1) Can we logically analyze, paraphrase, and summarize what we read? 2) Can we clearly explain the matter to someone else? 3) Can we concisely write about the subject in our own words? If not, contact Persuasive Pen for tutoring in speaking, listening to, pronouncing, reading, and writing English.

Two 1992 testimonials from two former high school English Department chairs:

Jan was hired by me in 1976 to tutor students who were failing or were behind in their regular classroom work. She was highly successful in motivating students to catch up with their classmates. Her knowledge of literature and writing is outstanding. She is an independent thinker, makes reasonable judgments on her own, and is a pleasure to work with.


Jan Holmberg is an intelligent, articulate person who has worked for us in our Paper Reader program, assisting composition teachers in the correction and assessment of student paragraphs, essays, and research papers. Every member of my staff is impressed with Ms. Holmberg’s knowledge of diction, grammar, spelling, and punctuation. When my father passed away I specifically requested Ms. Holmberg substitute for me as I knew she could lecture, teach, and correct work. She also substituted for me while I was recuperating from surgery. I was very pleased with her work.


An Advanced level ESL student handed me this letter on the last day of spring term in June 2010:

I just want to let you know how useful and good have been for me since you started teaching in Intermediate Low. Since then I believe that my English has improved steadily, not to mention the fact that I have learned many useful language tools that I’m using in my life each day. The reason why I’m writing these words to you is because I have achieved a dream that I had a long time ago. Anyway, thank you for the constant effort you make each night, the patient and of course the willingness that you always show toward us so we can learn and have a better understanding of the language. I came with one mentality and because of people like you, few by the way, I have changed my mind. I’m not sure if I fully embrace this culture but I have to admit that looking at the bright side of things, you guys have given me the opportunity to grow in my labor field and I as a person. I have a hunch that my life is going to move toward a new stage, and I don’t know how long I am going to stay here, but one thing is for sure. When I will reminisce about these moments you will be there. A million thanks, teacher. God bless you.

Persuasive Pen
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