Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Writing Center?

A Writing Center is a place for writers to work on and get help with their writing. Writing Centers provide support in the form of one-on-one consultations, workshops, writing guidebooks, handouts, helpful links, and online writing exercises.

What is the opposite of a Writing Center?

A fix it shop where you can drop off papers and have them “fixed,” “corrected,” or “proofread” for you without doing any work on your own part. The writer learns nothing, remaining dependent on others to take care of writing tasks for them.

Who can use the Writing Center?

Any students, faculty, or staff at RSU, as well as members of the surrounding community.

Why do you call your staff members Consultants instead of tutors?

The title “tutor” implies that writing support is something you only need if you are in trouble. Working with others as you write is actually a normal part of the writing process. We call ourselves Consultants because it alleviates the stigma of asking for help and because it suggests that the WRITER is the expert and the staff member plays a secondary role.

What is the writing process?

Writing happens in stages that go something like this: brainstorming, drafting, getting feedback, and revising. Every writer has a different process, and each writing situation can require adjustments to your process. For example, if you were writing a letter to apply for a scholarship, that would be a different sort of writing situation than if you were writing a researched essay for a Composition course. The purpose, genre, and audience for those two types of writing are completely different, thus you would probably need to adjust your writing process thoughtfully.

The writing process is generally cyclical rather than linear, meaning that we don’t always complete the steps separately, in a row. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes you have to brainstorm more ideas as you revise.

What do Writing Center Consultants do?

Consultants do not offer editing or proofreading services, though they often help students identify examples of problems with grammar, spelling, or mechanics and provide techniques to strengthen those problem areas. Overall, Consultants act as sounding boards for writers’ ideas and questions about composition, and Consultants model a variety of strategies for successful writing.

Basically, we talk to people about writing in order to help them become more effective and more confident writers. Writing is a way of thinking and communicating clearly. Furthermore, it is a marketable skill.

What are the differences between revising, editing, and proofreading? How is a Writing Consultant different from an editor or proofreader?

Revision means re-envisioning a text and can lead to major changes in the composition. Revision addresses higher-order or immediate concerns, such as content and organization. According to the 2013 RSU Edition of The Everyday Writer, editing means to closely review an entire text and to make changes to “the details of sentence structure, grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling,” often without explanation (94).  According to The Everyday Writer, proofreading means to closely review an entire text “to correct any typographical errors or other inconsistencies in spelling and punctuation” (97). Proofreading and editing address only lower-order or later-order concerns.

Editors and proofreaders usually make unexplained changes to a text. Essentially, they do the work for the writer(s). Their work is valuable, and they should be well compensated for it. In contrast, a Writing Consultant is more like a teacher. They do not re-write the text in any way; their work is to help the writer understand why the text is effective or ineffective and to help the writer learn about writing. The text they work on together is an example of what the writer is capable of or where the writer is in their writing process at that moment in time. As we say, our goal is not to make better papers but to make better writers!

What if the writer who needs help is an English Language Learner or has a disability that honestly hinders their ability to use grammar, spelling, or formatting well?

We coordinate with faculty, academic support staff, and the Counseling offices to determine the best kinds of assistance for writers, as necessary and on a case-by-case basis. Writing Consultants have special training that teaches them to adjust the support they provide to balance directive and non-directive help. Directive help is when we point writers to a list of specific improvement options to choose from. Non-directive help is when we assist by, for example, asking open-ended questions about the writer’s choices or acting as an engaged listener as the writer reads their paper aloud and makes changes.

How can Consultants who are English majors help writers from other majors like Business Administration, Nursing, Applied Technology, or the Sciences? How can Consultants who are sophomores help seniors with advanced level work, like Capstone papers or Nursing Case Studies?

Writing Center Consultants are trained to provide feedback on writing from every discipline. For example, they are required to complete training sessions where they review Nursing Case Studies and other papers from multiple citation styles. The feedback we provide is based on the purpose of the text, the audience of the text, the genre and format, and the citation style required. All of these details are provided in materials from the course and from the professor. Writing Consultants do not have all of the answers; they are experts in Composition, which is the skill and art of writing texts specific to each rhetorical situation. When they do not know the answer, they model successful strategies for figuring out which resources to consult, such as field-specific writing guides, sample texts, mentors, and professors.