By Kate Sims
It started when I was talking to this girl in my class. She’d just switched to English from a STEM major, and this was her first English class since high school. As we geared up to write our first paper, she was worried about it because she hadn’t written a paper in years.
“You could always go to the Writing Center,” I suggested.
Her nose wrinkled. “Oh, God, no. I’m not that bad.”
I tried to explain that it would still be useful anyway, but she shrugged it off, and the conversation moved on.
So, let’s dispel a few rumors about the Writing Center:
I don’t need to go to the Writing Center. I’m a good writer. Sure, but being a “bad” writer is not required to make an appointment. Having another set of eyes on a paper will always strengthen it because you know what you mean, but your reader might not.
I need to write something to bring it to the Writing Center, right? Not at all! You can come to the Writing Center with a half-baked idea, and they will help you flesh it out. Writing at any point in the writing process is welcome. Outlines, rough drafts, even graded papers. We’ve all had that one professor who gives feedback on our essays that makes no sense. The Writing Center can help you interpret, understand, and implement their feedback.
Microsoft Word has spelling and grammar checkers built-in, so I’m all good. First of all, Microsoft does not catch everything. Secondly, the Writing Center does not proofread for grammar and spelling. It handles global concerns only. In the event that the consultant finds patterns of issues with grammar, they will ask guiding questions to help you understand the issue as a whole—i.e. “do you know what a what a misplaced modifier is?”—rather than say, “This is a misplaced modifier.” It’s to help you learn to identify those issues on your own.
I’m not an English major—I don’t need it. Writing is a fact of life. In every class, you will have to write something. The Writing Center critiques not only essays but lab reports, resumes, CVs, cover letters, theses, and dissertations, too. There are even consultants who will critique creative works like poems and short stories.
I can’t afford a tutor. The Writing Center is free!
The Writing Center is all the way in Park Hall. I never go there. I don’t have time. Great news: there are three Writing Center locations on campus: Park Hall, the Science Library, and the MLC. And if you absolutely cannot make it to any of those locations, the Writing Center has online help.
I visited the Writing Center myself and spoke to Bridget Dooley, a PhD student at the university and a consultant for the center. All of the consultants are graduate students or higher, and they are all extensively trained to be able to handle any kind of writing.
When you come in for your appointment, the first thing you’ll notice is that the room is bigger than it seems. The wide, open space and comfy couches invite you in, maybe loosen the tension in your shoulders. There’s room to breathe and grow.
The consultant will sit down with you at one of the tables, and they will read over your piece. The process is more question-based, rather than the consultant taking the lead. This is your writing, so you’re in charge. The consultant will ask you questions to help you realize where you need to go.
If you feel self-conscious about your writing or think of yourself as a “bad” writer, heed the words of Robby Nadler, the Assistant Director of the FYC Writing Center:
There is no such thing as a “bad” writer… Writing is composing essays and lab reports, but it’s also texting, snapchatting, and the like… This is why the Writing Center exists: we are a place where writers of all types and all skill levels can meet with someone to better a piece of writing because we understand how difficult writing can be. It’s not about being “good” or “bad” but about understanding something as complex and malleable as writing should never be thought of something one can do solely on his/her own.
Getting help is smart. Why should you feel ashamed for using every resource at your disposal and making your work the best it can be? I can personally guarantee you that the Writing Center isn’t trying to tear you down. The people there want to help, want to see your writing succeed, and you’ll come out of your appointment more confident in your writing skills than you did when you walked in.
At the very least, you’ll have someone to vent to about how stressful writing is, which is so cathartic.