Turning To Your Parents for Editorial Advice: A Guide

There are plenty of people on campus who are willing (or can can be bribed!) to read your work. Your roommate’s always a fair bet. Hey, that’s why the Writing Workshop exists. Yet sometimes, it’s hard to turn away from old habits.

Sometimes, you’ve just gotta call your parents.

It’s okay to admit that you’ve done this. Heck, most of us have. This is a safe space. There’s no shame! After all, if your parents were reading your papers in high school, you can probably thank their editorial eyes for bolstering your writing skills enough to get into Wesleyan in the first place.

Plus, many parents (though by no means all) are often perfectly willing, even eager to read their kids’ work. Why bribe your busy roommate to read your papers when you have copy-editors just a phone call away?

Still, if you’re going to keep your editing in the family, so to speak, it’s a good idea to set some ground rules. Don’t just email your essay to Mom with a blanket “read this?” in the subject line. You might be expecting a few grammar corrections only to receive back a highly edited draft in which Mom – who, though she’s clearly trying hard to help, has never taken an Anthropology course in her life – has made numerous suggestions that have nothing to do with what your Professor is looking for.

So if (or when) you do ask your parents for help, try sticking to the following subjects:

  • Send them the original prompt and ask them to read for how well you answer it. It’s possible there’s a component of the prompt you skipped over without noticing!
  • So your parents aren’t familiar with your subject matter. So what? Ask them whether your argument makes sense to an outsider. If they’re confused about something, as them why. If you aren’t writing clearly enough for a non-expert to understand, you should probably revisit your work.
  • If you’re convinced that they aren’t familiar enough with the content to be of help, ask them to read for solely grammar and spelling errors. But if  they do wind up having content-related questions or suggestions, listen! Don’t count them out just ’cause they’re your parents.
  • If you’re working on anything job-related (personal statements, cover letters, etc.), send it on home before you send it out. Sometimes it can be difficult to brag about yourself. But your parents have been bragging about you your whole life! They’ll know if you’re not doing yourself justice.

Asking your parents for help doesn’t have to be any different than asking a roommate, friend, or even writing tutor. Still, here are a few things to keep in mind to ensure the working relationship runs smoothly:

  • Don’t take their opinions too seriously. Just because your Dad wants you to change your thesis doesn’t mean you have to.
  • Only share with your parents what you want to share. You’re in college now, which means it’s up to you what you share. Just because you sent one essay home doesn’t mean you have to send every future essay. Be polite, but make sure they know this.
  • Don’t let your parents re-write your essay or do your work for you. Some parents can be tempted to do this…stop it before it starts!
  • Give your parents the same courtesies you would a friend or writing tutor. Don’t send them your essay three hours before it’s due. Give them plenty of time; they have busy lives, too! If they do read your work, remember to thank them.
  • Follow up. If you’re going to dangle a bone in front of them, you can’t just yank it away at the last minute. If you ask your parents to edit for you, you’ve got to tell them how everything turns out…even if you don’t do so well on the paper.


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